Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Howling Gale

A Howling Gale. Yes, I know it has been used in a play on words for a Gaelic band, and is often used as hyperbole for any big wind, but now having met one, I want to set the record straight.

A "gale" is a wind stronger than a breeze. According to a system set up by an Admiral in 1805, the Beaufort scale, a gale is a wind of between 34-40 knots per hour, or about 39-46 miles per hour. A severe gale, the civilized English admiralty equivalent of a howler, weighs in at about 47 miles per hour. As you would expect from an admiral, his description is from the perspective of the sea.
Gale -- Moderately high waves of greater length;
edges of crests begin to break into spindrift.
The foam is blown in well-marked streaks along the
direction of the wind.

Severe Gale --High waves. Dense streaks of foam along
the direction of the wind. Crests of waves begin to topple,
tumble and roll over. Spray may affect visibility.

(Thanks to for the above definitions.)

As the gale was brewing, I took a look at the ocean, but when it starts in with high waves and spindrift--a charming name for an unnerving phenomenon of Mother Nature breaking the truce between sea and air and land--I prefer to look at it from a safe haven and distance.

The ships at sea and I had been listening to our faithful friend, The Shipping Forecast. They were pulling into harbour to wait it out and I was heading home. The evening news graphically displayed what was coming with isobars of high and low pressure morphing and shape changing like a lava lamp on speed. We all knew it was going to be a doozy.

The cattle are in; the cats have shelter and hidey holes. We have new windows where the leakiest windows used to be and the roof has been seriously looked over since the last gale two years ago unsettled us. We have candles and flashlights/torches and matches and I brought in groceries. I was not too much bothered. And my insouciance clearly had to be paid for.

The wind howled. Imagine the sound of a radio show parody of radio shows with fake storm effects. Now imagine that sound goes on and on and on. I tried knitting in front of the television, but the sound of the wind made it hard to hear either the television or background conversation.

The wind drove rain through the cracks in the seals around the windows not yet repaired. At first it was a faint layer of moisture, no more than a few beads of sweat on an anxious brow. I put down a towel and still did not properly appreciate this wind trying to make my acquaintance.
And so she upped the ante by changing direction--the window that she had been pushing on she was now pulling. The doors that had been chattering in one direction now shuddered in the other.

As I sat on the sofa still trying to knit but finding very little relaxation in it, my husband asked, "Is the garage door open?" "How on earth can I know that from the sofa?" I ask peevishly, hoping that I do not have to go out into this furious wind to see. This perverse ambassador from the wind-water revolutionary forces uppped the ante again by sending an unnerving thumpety thump into her musical mix. My husband went out and discovered the garge door is open and the wind is playing with the garage roof--lifting it up and down and down and up. He manages to close the door. The thumping subsides, but we can only hope for the best.

No sooner inside from the garage than we hear a clutter, chatter, and crash as shingles are thrown off the roof and shattered on the close just outside the back door in a pique of temper much too close for comfort. The power goes off and struggles back on only to go off again. We shut down sensistive electrical stuff and I prepare for the inevitable power loss.

The power goes off for good just as we settle into bed with the glow of the electric heater taking the chill off the room. Without the heater or the assistance of the central heating, the room quickly succumbs to the mini gale force currents blowing through the window. I add socks, a sweater, and a hat to my flannel PJs and snuggle under 2 comforters and a blanket and hope for a better day.

I opened my eyes at 8:30am to discover both the sun and the moon in clear blue sky keeping company with a slight breeze and a very tame sea curling peacefully into and out of shore with the steady roll of a paper party blower.

But the damage of last night's excesses was all too apparent. The garge roof was still there, but several tiles were missing. All the cats answered roll call for breakfast, but they were edgy and cautious as if they might still see the sky fall in on them. All the windows have salt spray on them. And the power was still off. As we headed into town, we noticed that the lead flashing on the back of the house was standing upright like a young man's crew cut rather than lying flat against the tiles.

And so, I'll add my own descriptions to augment Admiral Beaufort's scale. Insert "howling gale" between severe gale and storm.

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