What is it about high winds?


Tom Garrett 4 years, 2 months ago

Something Kim said on another string brought this to mind. She said, "...suffice it to say that I just love this kind of weather, cold, windy, snowy..."

There's something to that, isn't there? But what?

I think we've all felt it, but I wonder what "it" is?

I can remember a day just a few weeks after I arrived here in Arizona. We had rented a small house in North Phoenix. And I do mean NORTH Phoenix; there was nothing north of us but a chain link fence and high desert.

Then came a cold front, a turbulent brown cloud sweeping desert red into the air and steamrolling north as the roll cloud above it coiled its way across the sky.

And then the wind struck!

There I was, pressed against the back fence, watching in amazement as tumbleweed tore across the desert, driven by a wind that was least 50 percent red dust. Tumbleweed piled up against our back fence. Tumbleweed leapt into the air like floral gazelles. Tumbleweed skipped, and bounced, and danced across the desert like sun-worshipping plants hell bent on beating their dust-dimmed deity to the western horizon.

Man! Did it feel good to be out there!

Later that day I showered a half ton of dust off my bod and corkscrewed five pounds of Arizona out of my eyes and ears--but it was worth it.

I have felt that feeling several times in my life.

in Connecticut, riding the gale in a twenty-one foot sailboat as it skipped across Niantic Bay like a dried leaf atop a wind-rippled puddle.

In Wichita Falls, Texas, watching my tiny 23 foot house trailer do a rhumba in the wind as a cold front swept in from the west, and laughing like a fool when the ninety degree wind-shift I'd been waiting for flattened me as it arrived.

Standing beside the Arabian Sea, with my shoulder dipped into the wind as dark clouds rode the skirt of the monsoon ashore and the roar of the surf pounded my eardrums so hard I couldn't hear my engine start up when I decided at last to drive back into Karachi.

Clinging to a stanchion on our troop ship as it shuddered its way across the North Atlantic in late September and wind-tossed icy spray froze my face into a permanent grin.

Standing atop a low mountain range in Iceland as I took pictures of nothing but snow, snow, and more snow for thirty miles in any direction, and Hræsvelgr, the Norse god of wind, beat his giant wings, trying to blow three nutcase airmen into the North Sea where he could pig out on them.

(a bit more)


Tom Garrett 4 years, 2 months ago

I have pictures of that last one because I handed a camera to one of the other troops and asked him to take a picture of me, standing up there in nothing but Air Force blues. I usually took pictures of everyone else, but never of myself. I'd go running around with two or three cameras slung around my neck, and would rarely think of asking someone to aim one of them at me. But having taken pictures of the others, all bundled up in their parkas I thought it might be funny to show what I was wearing up there above the ski slope. (Why no parka? No brains. I wanted my arms free to handle my cameras. I planned on going to school and becoming a newspaper photographer after our Air National Guard outfit shipped back home, but I went back into the Air Force instead.)

So what is it? What is it in us that makes us respond like that to a high wind? Why makes it so exciting? Why is it that every time a hurricane is beating its way up the East Coast you can go down to the beach and watch a bunch of nutty human beings standing there, leaning into the wind, and grinning happily?

Were we blown off another planet? Are we hoping to get blown back?



Ronald Hamric 4 years, 2 months ago

Wind is facinating to people. It is like the force of gravity, you can't see it, only it's effects. Having been a firefighter in SoCal, every October, due to climate changes over the desert, the Santa Ana winds would show up. I've stood on a ridgeline assessing my options for when a brushfire started in that situation. I was leaning 45 degrees into the wind just to stand up. We really are helpless to do anything in winds such as those (60 to 80mph sustained), so we would simply go as far downwind ahead of the fire and try to prepair for it to come to us.

One benefit to those winds was it blew all the smog from the LA basin out to sea and one could actually see Catalina, San Clemente Island and sometimes Santa Barbara Island from the hills of Orange County.


Kim Chittick 4 years, 2 months ago

Aaah Ron, you bring up so many beautiful vision memories of growing up in SoCal. May I add, chasing my front door wreath down the block as the Santa Ana winds blew it hither and yon.

For me, extreme weather, (well, except for extreme heat, I just intensely dislike THAT!!) is raw, elemental, exciting. Watching the wind whip the trees, while billions of leaves fly about. Feeling the bite of freezing wind nip at your exposed cheeks. Watching the snowflakes drift gently and peacefully to pile up with others and form drifts. It feels as though life is reduced to us versus the elements; very raw, powerful and beautiful.


Ronald Hamric 4 years, 2 months ago

Kimmer, you are truly eloquent in your prose. As to the dislike of the heat, I am going to venture a guess that it may be a gender thing that occurs at a certain age. The wife is definately a "hotty" and has little tolerence for warm temps.


Kim Chittick 4 years, 2 months ago

GASP!!! MR. HAMRIC!!! What exactly are you implying?? Are you alluding to the...I can barely bring myself to say it!!!...the "M" word??!! ;-)~ Ok, got that out!! You are most likely spot on, much as I hate to admit it. As a young'un, I would lay on the beach all day, slathered in a disgusting mixture of baby oil and iodine, soaking up the rays with youthful abandon, sweating like a...well, what exactly sweats a whole lot? Hmmm. Begging the sun and heat to melt me like a scoop of strawberry ice cream on a hot sidewalk.

Now, if I have to go to Phoenix when it is hot, I am a raging bear! I am cranky and crotchety, and as miserable as I can be. However, give me cold temps, snow and blowing wind, and I am a happy old woman!!

Oh, and yes, your wife is indeed a hotty!! But you are pretty warm yourself.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 2 months ago


Your talk of California winds reminded me of something. When Lolly and I came back to the States from overseas in Pakistan in 1961 we were stationed at Travis Air Force Base, which is supposed to be closest to Fairfield, but is actually closer to Suisun. Curious about that name, Suisun, I looked it up and found that it was indian for "gentle winds."

We lived in Fairfield for a time before there was room in base housing for us. The place we moved into was a typical Air Force row house, like a town house with six units in it, up and down. There, we found out what "gentle winds" actually meant. Most of the year if we made the mistake of opening the front door and the back door at the same time we'd have to go out back and collect up the living room sofa and the rest of our belongings. :-)

My! My! Talk about wind! I swear--and this time I am not kidding--every tree on the base, and as far around it as I drove, had no branches on one side and looked like it was constantly leaning into the wind, but was actually leaning with it.

Then we moved to Utah. Naturally, as soon as we got there we congratulated ourselves on being out of the wind at last.

Guess we spoke too soon.

There's a line of mountains running through Utah which has very few breaks in it, just a few deep canyons that run east-west. Man! You talk about wind! We'd get a warning on TV about "canyons winds." Then look out!

I had a friend who lived in Layton (bought a nice little house for $11,000). His house was set about 15 feet above the road because it was on the high side of a gently slope. The houses across the street were more or less level with the road.

One day, here came "canyon winds." Ever seen an old cast iron push mower? Can you imagine anything less likely to become airborne? Well, his neighbor across the street had placed a heavy old push mower atop a small shed to held the roof down. If--believe it or not!--blew 75 feet across the street, rose 20 feet into the air, and went through my friend's picture window.

Now the funny part.

Again a "canyon winds" warning. My friend looks out his window and sees that mower back up on that shed roof. "Oh, hell!" he says. I don't want my picture window taken out again."

So he parked his Peugot station wagon on his lawn in front of his picture window.

Later, he told me, "I should have thought that one out. It's a lot easier and cheaper to replace a picture window that the side of your station wagon."

PS: Canyon winds occur when a high front gets on one side of a mountain range and a low front gets on the other side. The winds, of course, blow from the high to the low, but with a mountain range in the way they have to channel all that energy into the narrow canyons. You cannot stand up in a canyon wind up there in Utah. Trust me. I tried. I almost didn't make it back into the house.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 2 months ago

As to that "hotty" thing, whatever could you folks be referring to? Must be something I missed out on.

Welcome back again, Ron.

We needed a little humor around here.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 2 months ago

i thought I'd add a true story to this, one I know you'll all love.

Phoenix, about 6 or 7 years ago. July. The weather has been atrocious. Suddenly one afternoon clouds begin building along the horizon. They grow and grow, anvil shaped and dark, rising into the sky. The sky darkens. The wind picks up. Night falls.

Then it all blows away.

Next day, same thing. And the next. And the next.

On the fifth day two friends of mine, a man and his wife, now thoroughly disgusted, ignore the whole affair. Frowning at the sky, my friend sits down to watch TV and his wife goes who know where.

Then, whammo! The sky rips open and down it comes.

My friend, standing at the sliding glass back door to his house and looking at the rain pelting down in his yard, turns and calls for his wife to come see what's happening, but there's no answer.

He is about to turn away from the door when a figure runs through the night, lighted only by an occasional flash of lightning. He starts to open the door and yell at whoever it is to get out of his yard and quit leaping around like a mad....



"Well," he told me later. "I never knew she loved the wind and rain so much." :-)


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