by Paul Chaplin

Well it's June, meaning that for a month or so there is almost nothing less rare than a day in June. I mean we're surrounded by the damn things right now.

Other than that what can you say about June?

Here in Minnesota, right at the end of May, which is very much like June so I feel justified in writing about it, we had an incredible storm. There were "straight-line winds" of 80 mph and more, over a wide area; thousands of trees knocked down, houses destroyed, insurance companies crabbily letting go of a little of our money - yes, it was a real humdinger.

The single most common sight in Minneapolis/St. Paul right now is a tree laying on an Accord. Every block has one.

The problem with this storm was how to talk about it. All the breathless candy-faced remote reporters tried so hard to make "straight-line winds" sound like a menacing phenomenon, but it just doesn't work, which may seem like a small thing but how do you warn the people in the face of a storm like this? Who will respond to a straight-line wind watch? I won't. I would refuse. You have to draw the line; you can't be scared of everything and if I'm scared of straight-line winds I'll faint at the prospect of vertical snowfall or wet rain.

Thankfully it turns out there is a term, according to the weather service. Our storm was a derecho, they told us a couple days after the fact, and I choose to believe they didn't just make it up. Turns out they're very common in Minnesota.

Not so common that anybody had ever heard of them, but be that as it may the only remaining issue is devising a system of derecho watches and warnings, like we do for tornadoes. (This is all Midwestern stuff, by the way.)

We can't just have sirens; there are too many siren-based warnings already. Derecho is a fine Spanish word, as is tornado, of course. The Spanish seem to have a flair for this sort of word.

Thus, a simple and fitting idea would be to use our present infrastructure of massive siren horns to beam mariachi music out across the city in the event of an oncoming derecho. Everybody responds to mariachi music. You can't help it!

[posted 6/98]

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