The Curious Curse of the Microburst 

Hammer of the Gods

Hammer of the Gods

Just when the leaves and mulch start letting go of their flood stink, just when there's a chance that the heat and humidity might just back down a little, what do we Nashvillians get? A microburst, that's what.

What's a microburst, you say? Well, a microburst is a wind event that drops a shaft of cold air straight down, and really fast. When that air hits the ground, it disperses in a circle like an upside-down mushroom cloud. Probably the best known microburst occurred over the Dallas/Fort Worth airport back on Aug. 2, 1985. The cold air that fell out of the sky that day toyed with Delta Flight 191 — a big Lockheed L-1011 — pushing the plane up, down and sideways until the doomed airliner finally dropped to the ground, killing 135 people.

Well, back on Thursday, Aug. 12, we Jowerses were minding our own business, enjoying the last couple weeks of summer vacation, when we got to see a microburst close up. I was in my upstairs office looking out the window at a middling rainstorm when I felt a concussion — a blast of northbound microburst air, I suppose. It felt like somebody had thrown of big sack of ball bearings against my back. Just then, there was a loud crack, followed by a prodigious thud that might as well have been Thor's very own hammer.

I hurried downstairs and watched about of a gallon of water blow in through our dog door. A second or two later, I saw our 80-foot hackberry tree drop a 40-foot trunk into the back yard, pulling our power lines, cable lines and phone lines to the ground.

"Well," I said to wife Brenda and daughter Jess, "we're off the grid at least until Monday."

Best I can tell, the microburst that set off this bizarre chain of events formed somewhere south of the Jowers house. Maybe Brentwood, which could use some microburst action to take down those prissy — and stinky — Bradford pear Lego-Town trees. Don't go by me, but I think all Bradford pear trees should be harvested at ground level, cut into two-foot logs, and used for barbecuing.

Speaking of tree harvesting, I can tell you that the Aug. 12 microburst was a very effective tree flattener. After we Jowerses mopped up the rainwater in our pantry, we walked outside and found that our two-doors-down neighbor had lost at least one massive hackberry tree and one excellent maple. The hackberry had lost much of its top; it looked like a giant hand had reached down and tore off the topmost limbs. The unfortunate — and rotten — maple fell across the road in front of our neighbor's house. This caused endless honking and reckless driving perpetrated by the nearby condo dwellers, and especially the careless man who drives the Copper Cabana tanning salon truck. Sheesh.

Our next-door neighbors found their garage roof smashed by fallen hackberry trees, and the car underneath the garage roof even more smashed. On either side of their yard, fences were holding up thick limbs and trunks.

Except for our complete lack of electricity, land-line phones, cable TV and Internet, we Jowerses came out of the microburst pretty lucky. Our damages included two mangled metal chairs, a broken bird feeder and a one-armed concrete gargoyle that I might just be able to fix. And if I can't fix him, I'll just put him in the Jowers aberrant yard-art collection and imagine him flying in circles.

But there is this: Daughter Jess, who got her first all-her-very-own car back in March, parked on the street the day of the microburst. One of the many fallen treetops found her car, dented up her roof and guaranteed a trip to the paint-and-body shop. Until the car's fixed, it'll just have to go around looking like one of those beater cars I see up in Kentucky — the ones that look like people climb up on them and fight.

It'll be weeks — or maybe months — before Metro and the hard-working private tree cutters dispose of all the microburst debris. And while they're moving it, they'll be pitching it into the 140-decibel wood chippers. It's going to get loud around here. Still, a spell of tree cutting and chipping is way better than having trees fall onto — or into — my house.

The upside — if there is an upside to massive tree wreckage — is that when I go outside, I probably won't be smelling flood funk for a while. I'll be smelling hackberry.



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