Forecast: Hockey Puck Size Hail

Ah, yes, the hot and humid days of August are upon us ... in July!

Perhaps there is something to all this talk about global warming. This oppressive weather seems to be proof enough ... that and the fact that the North Pole is predicted to be devoid of ice by September. Hope Santa owns an aqua-lung!

So the other night I was sitting on the front porch, reading a little E.B. White and listening to the "artistry" of Jonathan and Darlene Edwards* on the hi-fi, when the wind suddenly picked up and the pressure dropped. A thunderstorm was rolling in from out of the west, with flashes illuminating the neighborhood and kettledrums moving closer with each minute. The first clap sent my Boston Terrier, Lucy, running for cover. Closing my book, I entered the house to put the Edwardses out of their misery, lifting the needle and returning the LP to its sleeve. Then I went about the house closing windows against the torrent to come.

This time of year the local weather forecast always seems to include the meteorological disclaimer: "Possibility of a late day thunderstorm." Most times it's a false warning, no rainstorm arrives, and I end up kicking myself for not watering the grass earlier in the day when I had the chance. But every once in a while the conditions are just right. Off to the west the skies darken above the tree lined horizon beyond Kelly Bay. The wind whips up, and the rain comes crashing down. In which case, I sit out on the porch and enjoy the show.

Now, with a thunderstorm there is always the possibility of hail, a bizarre natural event that somehow causes balls of ice to fall from a sultry summer sky. I don't understand the science  ... although it has something to do with super cooled water, condensation nuclei, and updrafts.

I have to admit, I've only seen hail fall once, and that was during a storm that visited Dennisport about a month ago. The hail was the size of a pea, or maybe a kernel of corn, definitely smaller than a cranberry or a blueberry, perhaps the size of a blackberry, much smaller than a beach plum (boy, I'm getting hungry!). It was rather puny size hail actually - nothing like the golf ball size hail the meteorologists are always talking about. Sometimes the weather folk refer to baseball size hail, which I imagine would cause some real damage ... and which would cause some real confusion if it ever fell during a fly ball at a baseball game!

Determining the size of hail seems to be an important part of the weather report. We've all heard of golf ball and baseball size hail, which gives the average sport fan a perspective on this rare weather phenomenon. Yet, we never hear of football or basketball size hail, or soccer or rugby ball size hail, or bowling ball or bocce ball size hail. Nor do we hear of hockey puck size hail - perhaps they don't get hail up there in Canada.

Lately, I've heard meteorologists reference coinage in describing the diameter of hail. Penny size hail. Nickel size hail. Dime size hail. Quarter size hail. Half dollar size hail. Euro dollar size hail. In this economy, perhaps we should stick to using currency to describe hail size rather than the usual sports references - after all, if people think that money is falling from the sky it might provide hope that the recession is over. Heck, if enough Sacagawea dollar size hail falls during the next thunderstorm we might all be able to pay our mortgage for the month!

So, the next time the meteorologist warns of a late day thunderstorm and you hear a distant rumble, position your wheelbarrow out in the front lawn. And pray for Euro dollar size hail ... the exchange rate is currently 1.59!

Jack Sheedy

*FYI: Jonathan and Darlene Edwards were the comedic alter egos of husband and wife musical team Paul Weston and singer Jo Stafford. With hit songs throughout the 1940's and 50's, with the Pied Pipers and as a solo act, Stafford teamed with Weston (on piano) to put out a couple of comedy albums in the late 50's/early 60's, impersonating a bad lounge club act. The effort garnered them a Grammy for best comedy album in 1961 (Jonathan and Darlene Edwards in Paris).

Jo Stafford  - nicknamed "GI Jo" for her USO performances during World War II - passed away last week at the age of 90.

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