Weather Warnings!

12 05 2009

Serengeti storm mw

“Well, look on the bright side: at least you won’t get a sun burn!” (northern Tanzania)

There’s nothing quite like a thunderstorm on a hot, humid afternoon. The heat builds to a crescendo and black clouds slide in and the sky echoes with a mighty crack of thunder. The first spots of rain are big and heavy and release the heady scent of hot, dry dust from pavement and parched soil. The wind picks up and no sooner does the storm begin and the streets swim with water, than it moves on leaving cooler, fresh air behind.

Nobody wants their vacation spoiled by rain, but few would argue against a cleansing thunderstorm to drive away a day’s worth of sapping humidity. There’s something magical about daily downpours that breathe life to lush vegetation and make sleeping easier, but sometimes, a tropical storm can raise a more than hair!

Fiji is a tropical nation whose mountains are covered with dense rain forest and brown jungle rivers. On the white sand beaches, the only respite from the cloying heat comes in the waters of the South Pacific or from gentle sea breezes which rustle the palms that provide a token of shade.

It had been a typical autumn day in paradise but as evening approached so did heavy clouds. As the light faded and the setting sun glowed in orange cracks through distant clouds, far flashes of lightning could be seen illuminating the darkening horizon.

A party had been planned on the tennis courts over which an enormous marquee had been erected. Covering three courts, the huge white tent had taken the better part of two days to raise and was still a hive of activity as final preparations were made. By the time the party started, the wind had picked up to provide a refreshing breeze outside, while inside huge fans were circulating the warm air.

With music pounding and voices filling the space, it was only when guests ventured to the facilities a few hundred metres away that the arrival of the storm was evident.

Rain lashed and bounced knee-high off the surrounding courts and paths. People sprinted for the washrooms but within a few steps were completely soaked. The party soon took on an air of reckless abandon as everyone continued their fun in saturated linen and cotton. It wasn’t long before the driving rain and roaring wind drowned out even the music. The weather had turned from an afternoon thunderstorm to a virtual cyclone.

The massive marquee began to literally rise and fall with each growing gust. The ropes that tethered the huge structure strained as they attempted to prevent the tent from becoming a balloon. The weather worsened and sopping guests began to brave the horizontal rain and sprint away, wetter than at any time since they’d stepped from their showers that morning.

Finally, a fire engine arrived to evacuate the rest of the party as the rising and falling tent became a hazard in the violent storm. As the guests were shepherded away, the firemen attempted to better anchor the thrashing and heaving canvas. Hurrying back to the hotel, the swaying lights illuminated palm trees that snapped violently in the gale, bending almost horizontally at each limit. The ocean pounded ashore, crashing into the beach and the reef beyond with a malefic anger.

A notice had been slid under my door warning of the tropical storm and advising guests to take shelter. The high roof creaked and groaned under the elements. The rain lashed against my windows and pounded the wooden shingles mercilessly. The fronds of the palms scraped and slapped as the storm intensified. Water began to run beneath my door and spill across the tiled floors until dammed with a large towel. There was no television signal and the electricity soon went off too. I lay in the darkness listening to the wrath of nature. Eventually, I fell asleep.

The next morning, somewhat surprised to see sunshine, I stepped outside and surveyed the carnage. Small trees and bushes had been blown over while coconuts and palms were strewn everywhere. The beach was covered with seed pods and driftwood and a few large branches had broken off. The air was still and clear and the sky a flawless blue.

It was simply another day in paradise.

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan © 2009

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