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May 7, 2004

Weather Forecasting Was Mom's Forté

David 'Kip' Koontz

Sunday's storms made me think of things other than the thunder and lightning, the threat of hail, and the possibility of a tornado.

Watching some programs on television, following the forecaster's constant updates of the path of the storms, monitoring the severe storm watches and warnings made me think of something I miss terribly - the calls from my mom giving her updates as to what might happen and the actions we should take to protect ourselves in the threat of the ensuing weather.

My mother, who died in February, loved the weather. Or it seems she enjoyed bad weather.

Or at least she enjoyed playing meteorologist.

One of the really fun parts of our relationship was that I just knew that the minute she thought that bad weather was on its way - we would start hearing from her.

Her earliest predictions started in her lower leg, which she injured in an accident many, many years ago, ached.

She would gauge the potential severity of any potential storm, by the intensity of the pain in her leg. Of course, the more it hurt, the worse it would be.

Funny thing is she called many more storms correctly than the professionals did.

Then, of course, after her own weather system kicked in, she would start to compare it with the forecasts she would see on television.

The calls would start.

She'd warn us as to whether the storms were coming from the south or coming from the west - those coming from the west, she concluded, were never going to hit Frederick as bad as Hagerstown, where she lived, because they would lose intensity coming over the mountain.

While putting us on notice about the impending storms from the west, she was never quite as ill at ease as she was from the storms that made a track from the south.

"Our biggest snows always come from the south," she'd say and the same held for thunderstorms.

She was right.

Sunday would have been a perfect forecasting day for her.

I can just imagine that leg of hers would have started to ache - most likely Saturday night, which would have precipitated the first call - a simple telling us that her leg hurt, a notice that the weather would turn bad.

Then Sunday would have been a rather steady stream of calls, telling us that the weather was coming late in the day, that the sky, to her, seemed to predict the potential for hail, that she had a hunch that this storm could produce tornadoes.

She would have monitored the forecasters and called us - even though she always told us to stay OFF the phone during a thunderstorm "because you might get struck by lightning" ("It goes through the lines you know," was one of her favorite things to tell me.) She'd be the first to violate her own rule to warn us that a "big one" was coming and to batten down the hatches.

Funny, too, is how she told us to stay away from windows while asking that we look outside to give her updates on sky color, wind conditions and the like, so she could make a prediction as to what might happen.

The contradiction was lost on her when nicely pointed out.

She did stop calling when she believed the situation was going to be at its worst - in order for us all to be safe.

I often wondered if she did as my grandmother did while I was growing up and that was grab her purse with all her insurance papers and sit on the steps in the hall foyer in order to make a hasty exit in the event the house was struck by lightning.

But storms never really scared my mom; she just loved playing amateur meteorologist and we were her broadcast audience.

Several years ago when the tornado touched down at Ft. Detrick, Hagerstown was hit by several on the same day.

One skipped across the cemetery where my grandmother is buried.

Many trees fell during that storm and my mother was very troubled that my "grandmother's" tree, the one next to where she rests, would be one.

I had to go to Hagerstown to take mom to Rest Haven as the thought that "Nan's" tree might have fallen would have been too much for her to experience alone.

While many surrounding hers did fall, Nan's did not.

Today my mom rests next to that tree as well.

The thing is she is probably waiting for the next tornado to skip across that cemetery so she can dare it to knock down "their" tree.

I will forever remember my mom with every flash of lightning, every clap of thunder and every strong wind that comes up.

I'll just miss those weather forecasts.

Happy Mother's Day!! Do you think it will rain?

Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
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