Friday, July 15, 2011

Where do the birds go in a hailstorm?

Late in the evening of July 13, 2011, I was helping my grandchildren get ready for bed when I heard thunder in the distance. I tucked them beneath the covers, then jumped into the shower to prepare for bed myself before the storm hit. Just as I turned off the water, I heard thunder so loud it made the walls tremble. I quickly slipped into my pajamas and ran into the hallway to meet both of my grandchildren.

Suddenly, it sounded as if hundreds of guns were firing at the house. My son-in-law shouted at us to get into the tornado closet, which was behind us, just beneath the stairs in the basement. I could hear him calling my daughter on the phone, knowing she was on her way home from work and trapped in the storm. I peeked out the door of the closet and watched in awe as golf ball-sized hail averaging 1 3/4 inches, smacked into the window, porch and yard, some flying back up off the ground.

As the storm started to ease, my daughter pulled up in front of the house--she had stopped beneath a tree, hoping to protect her windshield. Another friend was caught in the storm with her children. She stopped the car, climbed into the backseat and covered her children with her arms to protect them in case the windshield broke.

The family cat, who darted outside through an open door earlier in the evening suddenly appeared, shivering with fear. We checked him over for injuries, but he apparently found shelter because he is fine.

I then walked out onto the lawn, staring up and down the street, looking for injured animals. Thankfully, there were none that I could see.

There was hail of all sizes on lawns, in door jambs, driveways, and on cars and trucks. All four vehicles at this house received hail damage. The hail was in all sizes, too, from tiny, dime-sized pieces to golf ball sized chunks. Some were smooth, round, perfect balls. Others appeared to be clumps of tinier balls joined together.

I am still in Colorado. Although only a small portion of the state is considered part of "Tornado Alley," Colorado also has frequent tornadoes, particularly in the foothills. In 2008, I spent three hours in the basement closet with my granddaughter as the television repeatedly warned of possible tornadoes in our area and a mile-wide tornado plowed across the fields and the Town of Windsor on the other side of the highway from where my daughter lives.

Colorado is also known for fierce hail storms and tremendous hail damage. According to the NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory, Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming generally have more hail storms than anywhere else in the United States.

As an avid bird watcher who keeps God's little creatures close to her heart, I am always concerned about the small animals caught in these storms. In May of 2010, residents of Norman, Oklahoma experienced a severe hail storm and in its aftermath discovered a large flock of birds was injured. Many of the birds died, but sixteen were rescued by local residents.

Hail can be extremely dangerous, particularly for small creatures, like birds, who cannot take shelter. I believe it is important to check outside, in the yard, perhaps even in the neighborhood, after storms like this to see if there are birds or other creatures injured by hail. God's little creatures need all the help they can get.

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