Friday, June 18, 2010


No, let me correct that heading - it's been pretty much pouring down off and on since about 2:00 this afternoon here in Clinton (IA) on the banks of the Mississippi. The mighty river, itself, is now starting to show the effects of massive amounts of rain all through the central and eastern parts of both Iowa and Minnesota. All the rivers that empty into the Mississippi are at the tops of or over their banks. This afternoon Clinton's tornado warning siren went off and, frankly, I didn't even recognize the sound or know what it might be telling me - and I grew up in this country. The siren was warning about severe thunderstorms approaching the area with potential winds up to 80 mph. It did blow and there was a lot of lightning and thunder but here in the center of town, nothing serious to write home about - oh, wait, that's what I AM doing! Hmmm...

This afternoon's storm knocked the power out in most of Clinton and nearby Comanche for more than 4 hours. I felt right at home!

So, the siren. As the former President of MDP (Mountain Disaster Preparedness) I had more than one person tell me I should support the notion of Riverside County mounting emergency sirens around our mountain communities - to warn of approaching wildfire. Why? Again, I grew up in Iowa where tornados are a way of life and was here when the first storm warning sirens went into many communities around the state. Even so, hearing the one today, I did not think I should dive for shelter when I heard it this afternoon. Frankly, no one did. Yes, there were some clouds building in the northwestern sky, but nothing that caused those of us out walking in the sultry afternoon undue concern. And, I'm pretty responsive to emergency situations, I think most people who know me would agree.

So, just what would we in Idyllwild do upon hearing a warning siren blasting away somewhere in the community? Get in our cars and go...where? Turn on WNKI? Yes, certainly, but many of us already do that just upon smelling suspicious smoke, or seeing it. It has been said that should an approaching wildfire occur in the middle of the night, the siren would wake us and give us warning. Not in my house! Our bedroom is so well insulated against sounds outside at night that...well, it just wouldn't wake us unless it was installed very close to our house. And, who'd be pulling the chain to activate it? Probably the same folks who are authorized to activate the County EWNS (Early Warning Notification System) that will call us on our telephones and WILL give us information of value to help us decide our next appropriate move. And, of course, the County Sheriff Deputies will be dispatched in the event of an evacuation to go door-to-door waking us and getting us moving. So, for me, a siren just does NOT make much sense, especially when the cost is compared to the almost total lack of benefit that I can see.

Enough of that.

Tomorrow afternoon, Megan and I have a very fun book signing planned. My brother, Dave, is joining us at the local Book World store in downtown Clinton to sign copies of a book he authored for an elderly (now deceased) gentleman he met through the Senior Volunteer Program Dave directs. And, Dave talked his two buddies who play mostly Bluegrass music with him in a trio they call The Ripplers (after their early-on favorite wine, Ripple) to come down with their banjo, fiddle, and guitar and help him entertain the hoardes of people I just know are going to show up. The "boys" were here in Dave's dining room this evening, practicing with the thunder outside accompanying them and I just had to grab a pair of wooden spoons from the kitchen drawer to do my bit for one or two tunes. We're all going out to eat at Rastrelli's Italian Restaurant afterward - Megan's treat, 'cause she's sold SO many books! - and since I won't be driving, I plan to drink at least one glass of wine more than I should. (I'll be thinking of you, Frank, as I slurp down my ravioli.) So, don't look for a post from me tomorrow night by any means, fair or foul.

Here's something really cool - it's been nice enough to leave the windows open here. Occasionally the sound of a train crossing the big railroad bridge across the River comes in, complete with bell clanging and horn tooting. Sometimes the trains have to wait while the bridge span swings open to let a barge or boat with a high superstructure move up or down the river. Yesterday morning, as I was working on the computer, I heard the repeated tooting of a train's horn, answered by another one, then the first, and the second - back and forth that way for about 20 minutes. The engineers were "talking" to each other in a code they've worked out for just that purpose as each was waiting its turn to cross the River. The sound was strangely comforting, like something from the past. Dave says the sounds I hear from his living room window represent 20th Century technology - certainly not antique, but not truly modern, either. He's of the opinion that these older types of transportation and manufacturing I'm hearing are not long for this country. I asked what's to replace them and he doesn't yet have an answer for that. I love those kinds of dichotmies. Like life, itself.

Another storm front is rumbling in. Lightning is flashing brighter and faster outside. A cool breeze will make for great sleeping tonight...unless we're wakened by the sirens.


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