winter storms


The Imperfect Storm

For the record, I'm compelled to write about the 'Big Storms' we are experiencing. The weather is a component to living in Cornwall; it forms the coastline, adding and subtracting to the shape and structure of the landscape. Here we are, stuck out from England like a high-heeled boot, into the Atlantic. We get the weather first and we take it the hardest. It dictates our lives.

Everyone has their tale to tell and the conversation, locally, tends to be along the lines of, "How was it for you?". We've had a daily drenching of rain since before Christmas, which has been blamed on the position of the Jet Stream, according to the weathermen. These fast flowing ribbons of strong wind in the atmosphere vary within natural fluctuations of the environment. They are caused by the temperature difference between tropical and polar air masses. Waves or ripples along the jet stream can cause Atlantic depressions to deepen explosively as they are steered towards the UK, - and that is, precisely, what happened on the 6th February.

We were warned that it was coming - there were more arrows on the weather map than the flight aimed towards the French at Agincourt! The first I felt it was late afternoon, while walking my spaniel, Woody; it blasted into us from a southerly direction, flapping Woody's ears and wobbling his jowls. He looked as if he was being tested for drag in a wind tunnel. By the time we arrived home, it was really revving up; I'm not exaggerating when I say a wooden, ornamental duck flew past the window!

The wind was due south. It screeched and screamed, agonising like an injured beast, from some distant place in the ocean, tearing and ravaging all that hindered its path. For around three hours, the village was pummelled and pillaged by weather of epic magnitude. I heard a scrapping, grumbling sound, attempted to go outside as rain, cold and hard as nails hit me. Previously, the worse weather I have experienced was the night the Solomon Browne, the Penlee Lifeboat, was lost. Until now, that was my benchmark of how rough a storm can be and this one surpassed that night.

The potent fear of the wind was humbling. After a sleepless night , dreading that the windows were going to blow in and the roof lifted, we woke to assess the damage. We were OK; just branches blown down, the gate post snapped and an abstract contortion of the wheelbarrow tangled with patio chairs; not so lucky for our near neighbours who lost greenhouses and trees, an ancient Maritime Pine split in half and a huge Eucalyptus gave up and toppled over from its roots. We are a village of two halves as the sea clawed away at the rocks of the sea front wall, leaving a gaping hole as the road caved in.

Our only inconvenience was a power outage for most of the next day. John taught his guitar students acoustically and as I had a meeting in warm, cosy, brightly-lit pub in Wendron, he was left in the dark to cook dinner; but no tin of cold beans for my man! He lit candles, rigged up a torch to the cooker hood, rummaged around for camping stoves, cooking pasta sauce on one and pasta in the other, found a little battery operated amplifier for his iPod. Light, food, music... what more could a man need... and then the power came back! The heroes of the night were the guys reconnecting the cables; as I drove home they were up on platforms and harnessed to poles, to mis-quote Glenn Campbell, 'The Western Distribution men were still on the line'.

The destruction around the coast is unimaginable. Old harbours walls that have withstood generations of storms, like those at Mullion and Lamorna, have crumbled, Newlyn Green has been dragged out to sea, the waves at Porthleven were so powerful they not only lifted out the baulks to the inner harbour, but smashed them to splinters. A dear friend experienced a wave lift a garden pot, planted with a palm tree as it was throw through the door of her cottage, dumping it in her sitting room.

As my Cornish friend said, "ad a drop o' rain last night". That drop o' rain has cut England off from Cornwall, all rain lines are flooded or have fallen into the sea with the 'blame-game' pitched towards IKB's eccentric, but pretty, choice of route. Whether it's climate change or just winter, let's remember last summer...those magnificent days of hot sunshine, (wasn't that climate change too?) The daffodils, already in bloom, are defiantly confident that spring is coming so I'm making another batch of soup, baking a cake and getting on with it!

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