Strobes in the sky
NatI live in a suburb of Hannover, Germany. We have our fair amount of storms, the most violent happens during late fall, winter and spring, not to mention those summer thunders.
They do not reach hurricane strength, but windspeeds about 120Km/h can also do a lot of damage and can be serious risk to your life - one summer a strong gust from a thunderstorm separated me cleanly from my bike...to my luck nothing serious happened, after taking a deep breath I´ve continued the ride.
But now to the story I´ve meant to tell...
It was a hot and humid day at the end of July 1997. I think everyone awaited the end of a day which made you feel uncomfortable and maybe a short thunder to clean the air...
...and boy, do we got it.
Normally, most thunderstorms just passing by our community, just touching our area with it´s outer limits, due to the fact that the town is placed 30 kilometres northeast of a small mountain range which deflects local storms which moves in from the southeast to the north or south.
At 9.00 pm, I´ve remarked that some of the cable programs were replaced by the test signal - back then it was a nearly sure sign for a strong thunder approaching.
Some frequent lightning filled the southwestern horizont. I looked from the windows of my fathers living-room and became fascinated and excited. It seemed like someone fired gigantic strobes in the sky...massive lightning bolts running for seconds through the clouds, and if I had taken the steps up to the top floor I could have seen some nice CG´s for sure.
One hour later, a few heavy drops splashed on the ground, the winds which became more and more gusty took a brief pause, and constant thunder filled the air.
And then the theatre began to play, loud and wild.
Over the thunder which cracked louder than ever heard ( I have witnessed some thunderstorms in Italy, and they´re a lot more violent than in Northern Germany - usually... ) and the storm which had risen with furious strength you could even hear the rain rushing in.
The lightnings brighted the scene without any pause, and the window panes vibrated audible under the winds and the downpour.
In addition to closing all windows of our home I´ve lowered the inner blinds to prevent possible damage from shattering glass. Then I went to the kitchen as this room was on the lee side of this storm. It was nearly impossible to see the houses on the other side of the street - a distance of about 30 meters. The main road was flooded about 15 - 20 centimetres high, trees and street lamps bowed in never seen angles.
When the storm began, I had the idea of chasing it, but even a massive fourwheeler would have had serious difficulties mastering the situation. So I´ve tried to hear radio to be informed about this storm, the permanent static shutted out any incoming signal. Even today I´m still wondering that the power never failed - other parts of the county didn´t had the same luck.
Close before midnight, the storm dissipated, faster than it had begun. I´ve called a colleague from work then (we had planned to do a little tour through some bars and discos on this evening ) and asked him if we try to chase the storm now, and he agreed.
One and a half hour later, he arrived - it took this time to span the 30 kilometres between the place he was and our town, after zigzagging through half of our county due to impassable roads. It was out of question then to made any attempt chasing the storm.
When I went out of the door to meet him, I´ve noticed that a tree was laying only one metre away from my Audi (which I had bought just two weeks before... ).
The papers were filled with reports about this storm the following morning. The storm front was crossing Germany in two parts, the northern part which affected our hometown was about 200 kilometres long.
At the height of the storm the windspeed was about 120 km/h with gusts up to 190 km/h - nearly Hurrican force. Some stations measured over 120 litres of rain and hail with 5 centimetres in diameter size. A Tornado ripped through the eastern part of our county, damaging roofs and falling trees.
At this night I was on the road with my truck, delivering spare parts for BMW. The scenes I saw reminded me sometimes of pictures from nuclear explosions...power vaults of steel, 30 metres high, laid down on the ground like molten. The same for trees, many of them with respectable diameters, just pulled off the roads by farmers to make them passable again, the fire departments and the technical workmanships couldn´t handle this damage at once. Houses and barns without any roofing - even the beams were blown away, and some of the walls couldn´t resist these forces.
Two years later, you could still see the damage of this night in some of the forests around Hannover.
I´ve never experienced something like this before or again, but it stuck somehow in my mind forever. But I´m not sure if I ever want to experience such a storm again...to be honest, I was pretty scared when the storm reached it´s maximum force.
That´s all...better be the secure viewer than caught inside of it.
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since March 7th, 2001