When the storm comes

Every storm begins not with a gust of wind or a raindrop, but rather with a premonition of change.

The air thickens. At once the songbirds fall silent. Busy squirrels disappear from the corner of the yard. Deer find shelter out of the wind despite their desperate instinctual desire to graze on freshly greened grass. 

Look at the geese, the “V” of their airborne skeins streaking away from dark clouds.

Summer Storm

PHOTO: Tony Alter, Flickr CC-BY

Of course, the weather reports on television and radio detail specific threats of the coming storm. But not everyone believes the weather reports. At the country store, people chat about fish. They’ve run short on crappie minnows. At the frozen slush machine, a retired man sips a blue drink through a red straw. He has nowhere to be. 

Two jugs of water from the metal shelf seem enough. There’s plenty. No one seems to care about the coming storm.

You should believe the animals, though. And also that feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you that change will come.

There is a moment at the beginning of any storm when some deep, almost primal part of your being cheers for the wind. All this preparation and fear. It must be worth something? Perhaps there is hope that change, this inevitable change, might provide opportunity. 

Two dead trees seem impossibly tangled together by the edge of the property. They hover dangerously, too tricky to fell without the proper equipment. Maybe the storm will bring them down, allowing us finally to cut them up and split the logs for firewood. 

Under a pea green sky the storm comes violent and fast. All the trees of the forest twist in circles, each like a child trying to pull a branch off a young aspen. The wind gusts past 60 mph, or was it 80? The top of a balsam flies off. That tree? It looked healthy. Unseen, a mature poplar tree falls across the driveway with a thump. That is tomorrow’s surprise. 

The two dead trees, however, don’t even move. Strobing lightning illuminates their indomitable will. The storm quickly burns its energy, passing into a cool and steady rain.

The power goes out, of course. Such a storm will always knock the power out. However, one cannot predict how long we will be denied the nectar of electricity. In this case the answer is 24 hours, long enough to realize the ominous folly of living on a failed grid.

Electric water pumps mean you can’t flush the toilets or draw water. Every sip of water — for brushing teeth or taking a pill — becomes a precious commodity. 

The boys are late for school. We must clean up the fallen trees, the ones we did not want or predict. Neighbors come by. Stories abound. Trampolines departed with the wind. Trailers wrapped around power poles. And in one vivid description, a house disintegrated through the lenses of binoculars down in Cass County. 

Such are the stories if you believe them. I do. 

It occurs to me that I was cheering for the wind when that house was destroyed. Was anyone hurt? I don’t know. We could afford ice and our freezers held, saving our food supply. But we’ve been through longer outages. Four days or even five. What if they go longer? What if they happen more frequently. It seems like they will.

Indeed, we must prepare for bad weather, because it will come. But we must also do work in between the tempests. We can untangle the trees and change the topics of everyday conversation. We are not helpless or hopeless, even if we are powerless in the face of the next coming storm.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, June 5, 2022 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.


  1. Mícheál McEvoy says

    We are off grid. Solar panels, and a backup generator, recharge our storage batteries. It is a all system, but we have a small requirement. Our tefridgerator and stove are propane, our heat is wood fired. Water is from our rainwater collection. Even with this level of preparation, our road washed out as the culverts clogged with debris eashed down stream and neighbors were without power.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.