Friday, June 20, 2014

Tourbillon de Foin

As we were finishing up lunch on Thursday we were watching the 1pm (13h) news, with some scary photos of tornado damage across the United States. While tornadoes aren't unknown in France, they're fairly uncommon, and according to a tornado-tracking site I found, there were fewer than two dozen in 2013, with only one of them level 3. The weather's getting wilder over here, too - golf-ball-sized hail in Paris a few weeks ago, along with storms that shut down much of the city - and there's been more rain and more storms, leading to increased erosion along the beaches in the southwest and the destruction of vineyards and orchards. But there's nothing like the vast churning storms that devastate the eastern half of the USA regularly, the tornadoes and thunderstorms spinning west to east, the tropical storms and hurricanes east to west. There have been storms crashing through the Pyrénées here now and again, but they only make the lights flicker. The last time I was in Indiana my grandmother teased me about how nervous I was getting at the approach of a tornado-watch-level storm front headed towards South Bend, but I was ready to head to the basement just watching the flashing reds and yellows on the weather forecaster's screen. I still remember sitting in a dark basement, waiting for a tornado to pass by, one green-grey afternoon in Louisville.

And Thursday after lunch, as we walked out the front door, there was a tourbillon in the freshly-mown field across the road, swirling the hay high into the air where it caught on tree branches and power lines. The dry grass rose like a flock of birds up across the road and over the grange, stretching out into an airy line before falling back to earth. Florence and Frédo got a pair of pushbrooms and went out to clean off the road and the driveway and the parking lot in front of the store, and I drove back to Agnos after dropping Lilou off at her school, Lilou who reminded me that when I posted the pictures of the whirlwind I was to be sure to say that we saw it at Saint-Pée, in front of Ferme Bergeras. And so I have.

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