‘Tis the season to be thankful.
I for one am thankful that our beloved Coastal Georgia escaped any evacuation orders during this year’s hurricane season, which is hopefully over for 2018. Hurricane Matthew left our community battered but not broken two years ago and we escaped the worse of Irma last year.
Of course, my heart goes out to the devastation caused to others, especially the people in our neighboring states badly hit by Hurricane Michael last month and Helene in September. They and everyone else affected by this terrible Atlantic hurricane season have been in our prayers.
Growing up in “rainy olde England,” I was accustomed to lots of gentle rain and temperatures ranging from 40-60 degrees most of the time. Severe weather is still a real novelty for me.
We were lucky the first few years after moving here in 2009 and probably developed a false sense of security from knowing that Hugo in 1989 had been the last serious threat. Looking at Georgia’s curved coastline and the fact that our state has fewer miles of coastline than Florida or South Carolina probably made me feel safer than I should.
In recent seasons, we have all been reminded of Savannah’s hurricanes back in the 19th century – in the Augusts of 1881, 1893 and 1898 – when without the advantage of our meteorological technology and advance warning to evacuate, many died.
After all the hurricane drama, it makes me a little kinder when talking about the English weather these days. The United Kingdom has less than half the average total annual sunshine of coastal Georgia but almost double the rainfall. It rains frequently in England, but it is more the incessant drizzling rain and dark, cloudy skies than the volume of rain that makes the British weather so gray and often a bit depressing.
Of course, it does not rain all the time in the U.K. – and there is nothing more beautiful than a perfect English summer’s day. All that said, it must be admitted that the often-recurring rains make England into what 18th century poet William Blake called “a green and pleasant land.”
Coastal Georgia rain, on the other hand, tends to be heavy and tropical – and seems to me to disappear within a matter of a few hours and be followed by brilliant sunshine. We have less rain than the U.K. and it comes down a lot faster.
Back in Europe, I was lucky enough to live in the southeast of England, which is less wet since the west of the U.K. receives more rainfall from Atlantic weather systems. These tend to lose steam as they move east since the clouds are too “heavy” to move over the higher ground. You can learn a lot more at www.projectbritain.com/climate.
Because of these climatic challenges, the British are obsessed with the weather. And like the Eskimos, who are said to have 50 words to describe different types of snow, the British have an interesting array of ways of describe precipitation from the sky.
The British are generally very stoical about the weather and it is the topic of small talk with strangers. Generally speaking, we are brought up not to complain, to always carry an umbrella and raincoat (“brolly” and “Macintosh or mac”), demonstrate a “stiff upper lip” and smile while saying “mustn’t grumble.” The British have created a whole vocabulary about rain:
· “Drizzle” is, of course, a light rain, which is just frankly annoying, depressing and damp.
· “Mizzle” is like drizzle with mist or fog added.
· “Raining cats and dogs” is stormy and heavy rain. Most homes and barns had thatched roofs in medieval England, and this phrase originated when heavy rains would overwhelm this roof covering and cause domestic animals to flee for better shelter.
· “Coming down like stair rods” is as close to Georgia rain as the British get. It is a very heavy rain coming down in straight lines
The fascination with weather runs deep in the land of my birth. British children are all taught this nursery rhyme: “Rain rain go away, come again another day. Little Johnny wants to play; Rain, rain, go to Spain, Never show your face again!”
This dates back to the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth was on the throne and England was at war with Spain and facing the Spanish Armada. Launched in 1588, the huge Spanish Armada consisted of many large galleons and was sent to invade England, which had a comparatively tiny navy.
But the great Spanish Armada was defeated for two primary reasons: the swift nature of the smaller English ships, and the stormy, rainy weather around England that scattered the big fleet.
God bless America – and a very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!