Things I miss about Florida, part 3: Thunderstorms

Florida summers are brutal. The double-whammy combination of high heat and humidity makes venturing outside for more than a few minutes at a time supremely uncomfortable, unless you like the sensation of having been basted in a thin slick coating of your own perspiration at all times (I, for one, do not). The sun is relentless, bright enough some days to give you a headache from just looking out the window. You will often find your steering wheel is too hot to touch without gloves.

But on the other hand, there are thunderstorms.

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Image by William Carson

If you’ve never experienced a Florida thunderstorm, I can tell you they’re not like thunderstorms I’ve experienced elsewhere. Florida storms are violent. They roll up quickly, turning the sky from bright blue to deep charcoal grey in minutes. Then, after some far-off rumbling, the rain starts suddenly, raking across the landscape in waves, in sheets, sometimes coming down hard enough to feel like little stones bouncing off your skin. The accompanying thunder can be loud enough to rattle your windows.

Most times, all that lasts for about twenty or thirty minutes. Then, as suddenly as it began, it stops. The clouds clear, and for a little while it feels fresh and nearly tolerable outside, until the sun starts to heat up the streets and sidewalks and parking lots again and all that rain evaporates into the air.

When I was at home during a thunderstorm, I always liked to turn everything off and go sit in the Florida room, which was once an open front porch that a previous owner had windowed in. I would listen to the rain beat out a tattoo on the roof and watch the runoff sweep through the gutters in the street, carrying clumps of pine needles and palmetto leaves and cigarette butts along in its current.

We almost never get thunderstorms in San Francisco, maybe once a year or so. And when we do, they’re never like that.

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