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Weather Watching


Whenever I check weather conditions online, both laptop and cellphone open my Wisconsin site automatically. Before setting out on our third walk in three days in Sarasota, I checked my phone and found three emails from our media company in Waukesha. The first one, from 12:05 AM (CDT), informed me that power was out at our condo and promised speedy restoration. The second one 20 minutes later, reported power still out and promised somewhat later speedy restoration. The third one two hours later repeated what the second one reported and promised. After an hour-long hike around our neighboring Florida golf course, we found a fourth message from 6:46 CDT claiming that power had been restored and offering advice if our television still didn't work correctly. The power had been off for at least six hours, hopefully a neighborhood event, not only our household problem. The next morning power was out again early and restored within an hour. Presumably it was a widespread weather predicament.


That morning, my weather site warned of possible flooding on the Fox River in Waukesha. The Fox runs down the city's west side, through city parks, marshland, and grassy or wooded shoreline. In our part of town, our walk north beside parkland swings up to the river's edge and passes under a two-lane twin highway bridge before rising again to higher ground. Land below that bridge floods more than once annually. The river flows south behind our condo complex along well-forested Fox River Park, where one section of bike-and-foot trail gets inundated every year. River depth is usually 3.6 feet on average, flood stage normally 6.0 feet, but that day it reached 7.1. Our condo complex rises from the path along the river into the neighborhood. I didn't worry that we'd be flooded but wondered if high water could impact our local power grid. Lake Michigan storms recently had been worse than earlier in the year.


Online, I switch over to the Sarasota weather site. Its daily news list predicts thunderstorms have 90-to-98% chance of occurring today, tomorrow, and the next day, and 41-to-70% chances the following week. Supposedly, few days will go by without rain. In our first days here, we encountered enough of it to make driving in traffic uncomfortable, but most often it was more intermittent than predicted. Once, after we took bags of groceries to the car, Sue remembered something else she needed and returned to the store. I closed our trunk and felt rain start up as I climbed into the driver's seat. Rain poured torrentially for several minutes, then shifted to light sprinkles as she returned, with no realization of what I'd been sitting through.


A week later our kids came to our rental. We played a goofy card game—it had been Scattergories and Rat-a-tat Cat at their house last weekend, now Family Charades this weekend—and occasionally we stepped into the screened-in lanai to check the golf course and the stream that separated it from our back yard, hoping to see various birds or notice golfers who had started showing up the day before, after ten days of aerification ended and the course opened for play again. It began to rain lightly and then it rained intensely. We'd seen such rounds of rain off and on over the past several days but in short order this became a very heavy downpour. A strong wind sent it thudding against the walls of the lanai. Soon the screen wall was so saturated we could no longer see through it and the specially cushioned outdoor chairs and the small glass table and the carpeted floor were thoroughly drenched. From past experience we recalled going through this again and again each year and knew they would take a couple of days to dry. But still, this rainfall seemed fiercer than we had witnessed before.


Our daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter stomped through the pouring rain to their car; our grandson had already run through it to his. They would travel less than half-way home before the storm lessened and rainfall became light or absent the rest of the way. The stream behind our condo now was perhaps as high as we had ever seen it, and the marshland near the short bridge into the golf course at the end of our street, where golf carts zip through most sunny mornings, was entirely submerged. A portion of a tree trunk, felled earlier by a grounds crew, had rolled into the stream and had disappeared. Sue put a rolled beach towel against the narrow slit at the bottom of the lanai's screen door, to discourage skinks and possible higher levels of rainwater from entering. Rain or shine, we knew we would not have breakfast on the lanai in the morning.


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