Miles and the Other Big Winds

OK, OK. So I haven't been in the kind of situation where they strap you to the leeward side of a big tree and you hope it doesn't blow over and crush you. But I have seen some Big Winds besides the tornado and various politicians, some clueless middle level managers, and other bureaucrats.

Desert Storm

When I was 6 or 7, we lived in El Paso, Texas, on the edge of the desert. I mean, there was nothing over our back wall but desert. Once we had gale force winds for hours and hours - almost a whole day. I was in bed sick with a sore throat. By the end of the day, our "air-tight" house had a 1/4" of dust in it from that storm. Naturally, this made my throat feel sooooo much better!

There were no clouds. It was a bright, sunny day, which meant that all day long, there was nothing but a bright, sandy colored wall outside every window. We were the only house on our block that still had every window intact, and all of our cinderblock wall, after the storm passed. Tumbleweeds were piled over the top of the wall, and several feet thick on the other side of it. One of my Tonka trucks had been outside, and it was very well sand-blasted. Many toys disappeared, never to be seen again while others eventually reappeared years later when digging somewhere in the yard. There were actually small rocks (up to at least 4 to 6 ounces) that were boogie-ing along in this storm. The wind would pick up an edge; they'd start moving, flop a little more, and pretty soon they're just rolling along with the tumbleweeds and everything else. Run up a hill, fly off the other side a little ways til they fell. Which, with the aid of sand dunes, is how they got over the walls, and through some windows.

Wimp Windbags

I somehow escaped full force hurricanes. One came much farther inland than normal when I was at Georgia Tech. Yeah, it diminished some, but it was still a good windstorm by the time it hit Atlanta. And all those lovely high-rises downtown make great wind funnels.

Lowell Primm & I borrowed Nick Pomponio's car and headed downtown (we lived almost there, anyway). I remember cross streets where the wind would shove the car sideways if we hit a bump at over 15 MPH. This was in a big downtown construction period, and a 20 foot long 1'x2' beam (yes, I mean 1 foot by 2 feet) blew off a building and hit about 10 feet from the car. We felt the street jump.

Windows were popping out of buildings because of the vacuum created by the winds screaming by. We finally parked by a hotel that normally gave you roof access for viewing. We ended up helping the guard tie doors shut with rope, because the hinges had sprung from the doors being jerked open by the wind. Then he didn't want to let us go out, but we finally just went.

Lowell was from the hills of Tennessee, and had never seen a wind over about 15 or 20 MPH. I just missed the desert. We had winds well over 70 now. We had to lean way over to stay upright, like Wile E. Coyote on Saturday morning. It made our week. We were 20+ stories up, and a cardboard box almost big enough for a standard washing machine went by. Hey, it was cheap entertainment!

Til the Storm Passes Over

Florida. Ft. Lauderdale. Working vacation. Wife and toddler with me. Hurricane on the way. I get back to our hotel on the beach, and the pool furniture is - where else? - in the pool!

No, the wind didn't do this. My wife helped the owners do this. Easiest way to keep it from blowing away! If the horns sound, evacuate. National Guard will be out to show the way to shelters. Probably hit in about an hour or two. Nah, these winds are just the warmup act.

Mr. Desert Guy, of course, goes to stand on the beach. Didn't waste a minute. Didn't even change. Been at a customer site all day. Slacks. Tie. Wind. 10 foot surf (guys were surfing down at a nearby pier - storms are the only time they can surf on the Florida East Coast). Leaning into the wind, the spray, the sand.

My wife actually left our daughter in the room to come drag me off the beach. She was convinced I would blow away. Unfortunately, I had enough mass that wouldn't have been a problem even in a real hurricane.

Which we never saw. The wimp passed us by, and blew itself out before it even passed back out completely to sea. I think I was the only person around to mourn.

Last updated: 16 May 1997

Copyright 1995 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514