The Storm Collapsed

One Saturday evening last month I had been casually monitoring the local NOAA Weather Radar website to track a line of moderate thunderstorms that were moving through Northeast Nebraska. A few severe storms were indicated by red blobs on the map.

One area had become larger as it approached town, but its movement indicated that the large storm would miss Norfolk by perhaps ten miles or so. As the storm approached the anticipated area, the red area shrank rapidly into a small blip. The storm had greatly weakened. Our skies had not darkened with clouds, so I closed the weather page and went about some other business.

A few minutes later, the wind suddenly intensified. Moments later, I heard a loud boom, the house shook and the house’s electricity vanished. Instantly, I feared that a large tree limb must have landed on the roof. I carefully walked outdoors towards the east side of my property. A large tree limb was on the yard. Worried about the integrity of the roof, I glanced at it. The roof was unharmed. However, the feeder lines from the electric utility pole were broken. The wires dangled from the roof gutter and the utility’s transformer.

I called the utility–N.P.P.D. (Nebraska Public Power District)–and waited through the automated call system for a chance to speak to a human about my problem. After around ten minutes, an employee appeared then briefly interrogated me. She said crews were already busy with several downed line jobs but a crew would be at my address later on.

Half an hour later, a full-size fire department truck followed by a police SUV arrived to block off the street. One of the firefighters interviewed me then examined the power pole and the downed wires. A few minutes later, two N.P.P.D. trucks arrived with work crews. Several more minutes later, a new feeder line had been installed from the pole to my house and electricity was restored.

While the police, the fire department, and N.P.P.D. were present, I felt grateful for my good luck. If the strong wind had blown from a slightly different direction, the limb would have landed on the roof and caused extensive structural damage to the house. Meantime, my emotions were rather anxious, so I took some deep breaths and focused on the present moment to become calm.

With the power back on, it was time to power up the laptop to investigate the phenomenon that just occurred. Eventually I stumbled across a Facebook weather group that referenced some NOAA thunderstorm discussions. One of the participants mentioned something I’d forgotten about–collapsing thunderstorms.

Severe thunderstorms encounter conditions that halt the uplift of the cloud towards stratospheric heights. With upward movement absent, the primary force is the gravitational force of the Earth. The very heavy, water-laden air drops rapidly downward and spreads outwards. It appears as an upside down mushroom cloud. This causes a ring of intense ground winds and microbursts.

I later found out that the winds in my area had peaked at 59-miles-an-hour. That seems to show that strong linear winds in the absence of overhead clouds had arrived suddenly and caused storm damage across town.

All things considered, I was lucky to have an intact, undamaged house. The power outage had been the least of my concerns. I soon made plans with my favorite tree service company to remove the downed limb and to trim questionable limbs from the numerous elm trees that border my property.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actor, film producer, martial arts instructor, and philosopher, Bruce Lee. “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Environment, Hometown, Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Storm Collapsed

  1. Quite an adventure! Glad you were relatively unscathed.
    Your post reminds me of a time several years ago when a storm caused massive power outages in the area. There were people who had no power for weeks. I only lost power for a day so I considered myself fortunate.

  2. I have a number of tall trees near my house. They enhance the look and value of the property but also present a danger. I worry about them during storms.

  3. bloom|time says:

    Omg! Scary!!! So grateful that it wasn’t worse.

  4. rkrontheroad says:

    You are fortunate it didn’t land on the house. I was in a storm when visiting Cape Cod last fall that knocked the power out for three days and did a lot of damage. Quite exciting.

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