When I noticed darkness descending at about 7:30 p.m. on Monday, I didn’t know that I “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
Darkness had fallen 12 hours earlier, at 7:30 a.m. As I was getting ready for work, the clouds moved in, the wind picked up, and the downpour began. Fortunately for me, the worst of the wind and water was over by the time I left at 8 a.m.
When I returned in the evening, I thought about relaxing outside for a bit or even going to the stores for the walk. There was some sun, but it wasn’t the gentle, soft summer evening of my dreams. I didn’t feel very good, either, so I stayed in and felt guilty.
Then it was “déjà vu all over again.” I marvel every time at the speed with which a storm can appear to darken the world.
By 8 p.m., the thunder and lightning had begun, the clouds had opened up, and the skies were as dark as though it were hours after sundown, not minutes before. I love storms, so I watched the nearly constant lightning and waited for it to pass in due course.
As the clouds lit almost like strobes with an occasional streak down to the horizon, I distracted myself by looking up the different types of lightning. I remembered being afraid and my parents talking about “sheet lightning” that wasn’t anything to worry about. I realized how comforting it can be to remain ignorant and to be reassured.
By 9:45 p.m., I had had enough. I tried to read, but was too tired and even too worn out to stay awake. As I dozed, I sensed the storm abating.
The reprieve was brief because at some point near midnight, I perceived flashes. More than that, I heard rain. Rain like I have rarely heard or seen before. It hit the windows in solid sheets. I thought about the young rabbit, which I’d seen in the garden earlier in the evening after a week’s disappearance, and worried that he was not only frightened and soaked, but that he might drown. In a half stupor, I imagined the wall of water coming through the bricks and running down the interior walls.
In east Hyde Park, a lot of tree limbs, some large, some small, were torn off. One tree’s secondary trunk was split off; I’m not sure if that kind of injury leaves it salvageable. My initial reaction to seeing the limbs all over the street was an odd, involuntary one — irrationally I thought with a sickening feeling that vandals were somehow responsible.
The Chicago Tribune reported that conditions sparked more than 9,000 lightning strikes in a four-hour period — not a typical midsummer’s eve storm. Knowing that now, I’m not surprised that this constant onslaught wore on me. But I was less frightened than by the October storm a few years ago in which the wind uprooted thousands of trees while I cowered.
As with many of my fears, nothing came to pass — rain didn’t stream down the walls, and I’ve spotted the young rabbit enough times since Monday to be convinced he didn’t die of fright or drown.
And neither did I.