Sunday, March 4, 2018

A maddening wind.

It's been a little windy around here lately.

Here in the DC area, we got the tail of the nor'easter that pummeled the East Coast from Virginia up to Maine. Further north, rain and snow were the order of the day on Friday. The wind and rain caused coastal flooding, particularly in Boston. Flights were canceled all up and down the coast on Friday and again yesterday, as the storm took its time moving out to sea.

Some folks whose flights got off the ground may have wished they hadn't when the plane tried to land. Passengers on multiple flights reported their planes were full of people throwing up. On one flight, the pilot said even the cockpit crew got queasy.

All we got was the wind -- which was substantial enough. We had gusts topping 60 mph, with some parts of the area registering gusts of 70 mph or more. As a comparison, a Category 1 hurricane packs sustained winds of at least 74 mph. Our sustained winds didn't get that high, but they qualified as tropical storm strength. We lost a lot of trees and tons of branches, and more than half a million people lost power in the DC area at the height of the storm on Friday.

Predicatably, the storm earned its own hashtag: #Windmageddon.

Ordinarily, I'm a fan of windy days. I have a theory that big winds can be purifying, blowing bad energy away. But this windstorm overstayed its welcome; the winds kicked up overnight on Thursday and didn't really drop back into a normal range until today. It didn't feel like a cleansing so much as a stiff hand in your face: "Stay back! Stay where you are! Come this way and you'll be blown apart!"

Strong winds were among the causes of a thing called prairie madness among the pioneers. Early settlers were isolated, living in primitive housing -- think tiny homes, but built of sod because there were no other building materials nearby -- and separated by long distances from other settlers. Plus there was no fast transportation and no means of communication with the folks back east. Once the snows came, they were pretty much trapped inside, staring at the four walls and each other, and listening to the moaning wind.

Authors like Willa Cather have used prairie madness as a literary device, but the condition was almost never as bad as it was depicted in fiction. People rarely went barking mad. They did, however, become depressed -- and their depression usually lifted in spring, when the snows melted away and sufferers could get outside again.

Today, we have all manner of ways to stay connected (maybe too many), and so prairie madness is a lot less common.

I'm grateful that my daughters and I came throught Windmageddon okay. Whether this big blowhard purified anything in DC, though, is still...uh...up in the air.

These moments of breezy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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