Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Jeremiah 4: 11-12

Yesterday was strange. All morning I had a bizarre light-headed feeling which I've only ever felt before hurricanes. I checked the weather: just some possible thunderstorms in the afternoon. So I settled in to my homework.

The winds started whipping through the city by midmorning. I had to close our window for fear of it being torn off its hinges, but its hinges are weak little screwy things, so that's not saying much. I was fully immersed in my reading, so wasn't thinking when the wind noise outside became so loud that I put in the earplugs I reserve for sleeping on loud nights. It sounded like those tin sheets you shake backstage to make thunder noise, then silent, then kindof screechy, then like a train going by. A small part of my brain started wondering about the structural integrity of my window frame. I pictured a dark cartoon cloud in the sky angrily puffing, and kept reading.

When, a little after noon, I absentmindedly switched on yet another lamp to read by, I realized something was wrong. I was sitting next to the 10'x9' window in our 9th-storey apartment, it was early afternoon, and there wasn't enough light to read by. "Must be quite the thunderstorm coming," I thought, and glanced out the window. Only to see a yellow sky hung low with dark clouds, our neighbor's patio torn to pieces, strips of the tin roof next door peeling up... and a wall of roiling orange stretching from earth to clouds moving toward me. "Sandstorm," my Hollywood-trained weather eye reported. Unfortunately, it was right.

Being fully indoctrinated into the post-post-modern era, I hopped on the computer and checked the current conditions and forecast to see what the heck was going on. Sustained winds of up to 65 mph, regular gusts of up to 85 mph, and "some blowing dust." I looked out the window again. "That's Australian understatement for you," I thought.

At this point, Petra called from work: "I hope you're not out biking in this!" She reported that the power was out in her area, but that they were all being asked to stay inside. Seemed reasonable to me. I turned off the power points and hunkered down.

The wall of sand began dissipating about three blocks away as it reached the edge of the tall-buildings part of the city. For the next hour, the winds (still galeing away on my poor windows, which thankfully were better constructed than they appeared) brought with them a deafening hiss of sediment. There was so much red sand in the air that next building over looked curtained in rust-stained cheesecloth.

A sudden cats-and-dogs rain did a good job clearing out the air in mid afternoon. The wind kept blowing all night, sometimes with rain, sometimes without, and is still gusting now under a sunny sky. Even the most staid and reasonable newspapers have reported on the storm with FOX-like zeal, but for once I think their adjectives and sense of drama are correct. It seemed somehow Biblical. One Ballarat newspaper described it as "The day the sky wept red tears." The winds were so strong they blew a brick wall onto a woman in one of Melbourne's suburbs, stripped farmers' fields of grain bare, knocked over countless stressed trees: it's like the three little piggys' wolf gone huge.

And the culprit behind this storm? Global warming. The seas are warming, currents are shifting, and Antarctica is melting. So, among the other problems this is causing, the winds are rising. Here. And now. Let's pray.

The view of central Melbourne (peer closely in the background for the tall buildings where I live) after the wall of sand dissipated.