When I was very small there was a very pretty and stylish young woman that did the weather report on television in St. Louis. Her name was Dianne White. I later found out that she was the first African American woman weather-caster in the nation, but at the time I didn't know anything about that. But I wanted to be Dianne White.
I wanted to stand in front of a map of the US, wearing beautiful clothes and point knowledgably at the cold fronts and high pressure systems moving through the plains toward St. Louis. I wanted to wear a different beautiful outfit every day and be on TV.
I also liked weather. I was interested in it. St. Louis is in a part of the world known as "tornado alley" and sometimes violent storms hit the city. The tornado that hit St. Louis in February of 1959 was terrible. The news reports say that this tornado hit in the middle of the night so I shouldn't be able to remember it, but I do remember walking home from school with the sky turning a scary shade of green. In 1959 I would have been 6 years old and in first grade.
Another tornado hit St. Louis County only a couple miles from our house in 1967. I remember coming home from my piano lesson with lightning ringing the sky. We were usually fairly blase about tornado warnings, but for this storm we watched carefully in case we needed to run down into the basement. I later babysat for a family whose home had been destroyed by this storm. I would stay with the children while the husband visited his wife in the hospital, where she was recovering from injuries she received. One of the children was in a body cast. One night while I was babysitting a thunderstorm started developing. Those poor children were terrified. I tried to console them but I was very relieved when their father burst into their apartment, knowing that his children would be afraid.
But I still loved weather. Midwestern skies are so big, you can see storms coming from far away. I loved to watch the thunderstorms form, and although I had no desire to get caught in a tornado, I still found them strangely thrilling.
Moving to Hong Kong meant an introduction to a whole new system of weather patterns. Instead of tornadoes there were typhoons. Instead of summer thunderstorms Hong Kong had a rainy season, marked by incredible downpours that created roaring waterfalls and caused entire apartment buildings to slide into the sea. Rainstorms were categorized as Yellow, Red or Black. Black rainstorms caused amounts of water that made travel impossible and shut down the city. Yet after the rain was over and the sun came out the city always cleaned up the debris and got back to work. Even typhoons couldn't slow Hong Kong down for long.
Now that I live in New England I'm once again becoming acquainted with a new set of weather patterns. The winters are longer and colder than anywhere that I have lived before. Thunderstorms are unusual and tornadoes are almost unknown. Hurricanes are a possibility, although we live far enough inland to be spared the brunt of most storms, I think.
I've decided to finally follow my weather-lady dreams and I have started a weather station of my very own. No, I don't have one of those charming white wooden cabinets filled with weather equipment somewhere in my backyard. But I do have a barometer, an outdoor thermometer, an aenometer to measure wind speed, a weather vane, and a professional rain gauge. I have created a spreadsheet to record the data I collect every day.
So far its been very interesting. I collect my data at around 7AM every day. I've discovered that even if it gets windy later in the day its seldom windy at that time in the morning. The humidity is usually very high at the time of day, even though it often drops as the sun gets higher in the sky. And the barometer really does rise and fall as good weather and bad moves through our neighborhood.
I'm still not wearing beautiful outfits or standing in front of a map of the United States, pointing authoritatively at the weather systems, but we all have to start somewhere, don't we? You'll find me peering at my rain gauge in the early morning, holding my aenometer in the air, and staring at my weather-vane. Is the barometer steady, or is it rising or falling? Go ahead and ask me, I'll know!