Guest Blog: First comes hail, then comes resiliency

Here is a guest blog post from Shauna Struby of Transition OKC in Oklahoma, originally posted here.

About 4 p.m. yesterday, May 16, we were hanging out here at the hacienda, having a bit of rest after a busy Saturday and Sunday morning. I'd been out in the garden earlier tucking more compost around the potatoes in the potato bin, pulling a few weeds, checking on the newly emerging green beans, baby spinach and the first asparagus shoot in my newly planted asparagus bed. The garden was healthy, thriving, burgeoning. Callie and I sat in our backyard rocker and just drank it in for awhile.

Photo by Shauna Struby (see album)

When the sky started darkening we flipped on the TV. We do that here in Oklahoma where the weather can change dramatically in moments and sometimes deliver one helluva slap, and yes, the weather guys confirmed yet another storm was headed our way. We've had plenty of threatening storms this season and last week's series spawned a maelstrom of tornadoes -- 39 or so depending on who you Google -- that ripped through central Oklahoma with a vengeance. Yesterday the weather guys weren't talking tornadoes though. Instead they were warning of hail, big hail, lots of hail. And hail it did.

At our house it started with a few baseball-sized balls that thwacked the roof so hard I thought someone had fired a gun next door. I looked out the window to see white missiles whizzing by and slamming into the backyard. When one of them snapped a tomato plant off at ground level, I couldn't help it, I started crying. But that was just the beginning. Tennis-ball size hail came next and finally golf-ball size, only these came in sheets. Everything outside turned white, the sound was so deafening we had to shout to be heard, the cats freaked so we tucked them into their carriers. We took pictures, I Facebooked, and then we stared in shock when it was over. Everything was pummeled, shredded garden, trees, flowers, smashed cars and windows, dented roof.

Just like the ever present wind, dust storms, drought, intense heat, and the threat of tornadoes, hail storms are part of living on the plains. We accept we have no control over Nature, we understand it, but when it zaps us it's still a shock.

I've lived in Oklahoma and West Texas most of my life, been in plenty of hail storms and I've never seen anything like what hit us yesterday. My mother and mother-in-law, both long-time Okies more than 70 years old (I'll be discrete and not reveal their ages) echoed the same sentiment.

Thinking about the now and the future, as climate change brings more extremes, more once-in-50-or-100-year events, my thoughts turned to ways we can be more prepared, building earth-sheltered houses for instance, which is something my family is planning to do. For this kind of resiliency planning we're going to need the creativity of everyone which is why the Transition framework seems like such a timely tool for us plains dwellers. For instance, maybe together we can figure out a way to to create low-cost, sturdy pop-up shelters for blossoming plants that would act as a deterrent to hail.

For now after this latest storm we're in the hopeful stage. I toured the garden and signs of life are everywhere. New leaves are already sprouting on the plants that weren't flattened. In places the hail drilled holes as deep as four inches into the soil and right next to the hole seedlings are unfurling, growing in spite of the bruising toll on the earth surrounding it. Birds are flying in to grab hay and I'm imagining they're already deep into nest repair and rebuilding. My neighbors are raking and gathering downed leaves, smashed car windows are covered with plastic and duck tape, blown out house windows boarded, and I've seen people up on their roofs, sawing boards for quick roof repair. It may take awhile, but all these materials things will be repaired, car windows installed. And plants will put on new leaves, trees new branches, gardens will recover.

There are so many who lost so much more in last week's tornadoes, and our farmers and ranchers who depend on their crops and livestock for a living are much more effected by the vagaries of weather than we urban dwellers will ever be. So sending blessings today to those dealing with last week's tornado damage, to farmers, ranchers and urbanites sorting through yesterday's hail damage, to those who were injured or suffered more devastating losses.

Today I'm grateful there were no tornadoes yesterday, that no lives were lost. Grateful to be alive, to know my friends and family are well, grateful we're resilient and planning to be even more so. And now on to recovery.

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