More Dogs on Main
August 6, 2010
The thunder and lightning have been pretty impressive around here lately. For several nights in a row, I’ve had to resort to the "lightning drill" in the middle of the night. That means getting up and unplugging the TVs and computer, closing the windows, and basically hunkering down for the deluge that, at least so far, has never come. The wind rips, trees fall across the road, the air practically sizzles with the electrical charge, and the thunder shakes the house. Then it drops enough rain to moisten the bottom of the rain gauge and it’s all over. There hasn’t been a tenth of an inch at my house since it quit snowing in May. But more often than not, I have to get the chain saw out in the morning to clear the road to the house.
The rain has been spotty. I drove into town one evening, and while it was hot and sunny at my house, it looked like Oakley was getting washed off the face of the earth. It was black as midnight in that direction, though Kamas was in full sun. But between Kamas and Jordanelle I drove through a storm that was pounding down so hard the wipers couldn’t keep up with it. It hadn’t rained a drop on the Jordanelle side of the pass. Happy people on bicycles were riding into the storm completely unaware. Once they crossed over the pass, it was a different world. That same week, some family members were camping with their kids over at Moon Lake and got thoroughly soaked every day. Not a drop here.
It’s pretty cool to look out the windows and watch the fireworks in every direction. But the mountains around my house are packed with dead pine trees. Some of it is lodgepole with the bark-beetle kill. Most of it is fir with some other kind of insect damage. Probably half the forest is standing deadwood. We are one good lightning strike away from whole mountainsides exploding. So these dry lightning storms are as unwelcome as they are fun to watch.
The lightning has been very close. Through the years, I think everything that can be plugged into the electrical system has been fried by lightning at one time or another. It’s probably a coincidence, but every time there has been a significant strike, the damage is about $5 under the insurance deductible. I’ve got surge protectors plugged into surge protectors on the computer and still pull the plug if the lightning gets close. The phone company has a big surge protector where the line comes into the house, and they still replace the modem about once a year. When the flash and the bang are simultaneous, it’s time to pull the plugs on everything.
My old dog, Lizzy, needs some kind of surge protection. There’s no way to unplug her, but when the storms start building, she goes nuts. I don’t know if there is an ozone smell she picks up, or a sudden change in barometric pressure, but a good hour before the storm builds, she starts having conniptions. She paces, she pants, she drools all over the house. If she could, she would tunnel all the way to China. She tries to get under the bed, which is an interesting trick for a dog the size of a draft horse, and hides in one tiny corner after another. Once the storm hits, she trembles in fear, and drools. The storms haven’t produced any measurable rain, but I think I have mopped up enough drool to float a cruise ship. There’s no calming her down, and even after the storm has blown over, she pants and shakes for several hours.
The new dog that recently adopted me is completely different. If he’s even aware of the storm, he sure doesn’t show it. While Lizzy is at the brink of cardiac arrest, Stumpy will be lounging on his back, sound asleep, without a care in the world. I honestly don’t know how two dogs could have more different reactions to a thunderstorm. Lizzy is oblivious almost everything else. She ignores animal noises from the TV, while Stumpy has to go bark at the front door any time an animal on a TV show makes a noise. For some reason, they just respond to different things.
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Anyway, it would be nice if the storms would either produce some meaningful rain for all the disruption and panic they are causing, or just give up and quit trying to spark up a forest fire every night. Panicked dogs aside, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when lightning bolts are striking within a mile or so of the pillow.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs on Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.