In a life that’s spanned eight decades, I’ve had the good fortune of living in the four points of the American compass.
I’ve valued experiencing the distinct cultural, geographical, and climatic regional differences our land affords. The most challenging and character-building of the three is the latter.
I’ve experienced subzero, 2-foot snows in Cambridge, Mass.; weeks of subzero temperatures and equally deep snows in Woodstock, Ill.; 100-degree plus heat storms lasting for weeks and ice storms lingering for days in Tulsa, Okla.; blinding 100 mph dust storms in El Paso, Texas, and biblical floods in Baton Rouge, La.
Additionally, in each quadrant of the county, I’ve experienced hail. In every instance, the concentric layers of compact snow and ice were no larger than peas and fell for brief intervals with little ferocity and, providentially, inflicted no personal damage.
Then came last Monday afternoon at our home on Cheyenne Mountain, the epicenter of one of Colorado Springs most virulent hailstorms. For over a half hour on the clock — and an eternity on my psyche — my wife, Shirley, and our Saint Bernard, Schnapps, found ourselves in a geological war zone with an unrelenting bombardment of baseball-sized hail bearing down on us from all directions.
First to fall during the ear-popping and interminable cannonade were the profusion of flowers resting innocently in their beds and in their containers. Those not shredded, or torn up, were buried in ice.
While this carnage was accruing, Schnapps began howling at the invading elements with an intensity he’d never evinced before.
In the midst of his caterwauling, a new and final horror erupted, an amplified assault of ice bombs began shattering our windows and our nerves.
This brutal barrage was relatively brief and the hailstone bombardment ended as quickly as it began leaving us with eight broken windows and a shattered skylight.
If nothing else, last Monday’s “attack” was a sobering learning lesson. Being new to Colorado, I’ve come to learn that hailstorms are not infrequent in Colorado due to the state’s high elevation, which in the case of Colorado Springs, is 6,035 feet nearer to the freezing point than a community at sea level. Moreover, given Colorado’s high altitude, there is far less time for hail to melt before it falls than, for example, in neighboring Kansas.
Fortunately, our flat two-year-old tar and gravel roof sustained no damage, which cannot be said of many of our neighbors. Monday evening and Tuesday tarps were hurriedly draped over hundreds of roofs in our neighborhood, sorry scenes reminiscent of artist Christo’s mini “Valley Curtain” installation (a 1,200-foot curtain across Rifle Gap in Colorado).
The devastation to neighboring Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, 2 miles to our west, with the death of 4-year-old Muscovy duck, Daisy, 13-year-old Cape Vulture, Motswari, peacock, Snoop, and a young meerkat, the multiple injuries to visitors, zoo employees, and animals, as well as over 400 damaged cars at the site, made international news.
A neighbor, who has called the Springs home for over 60 years, emerged from her battered home Monday evening looking shellshocked. When she saw me clearing downed tree limbs to make a path from our front door to our driveway, she called out, “I’ve never lived through anything like this and I hope never to again!” A hope I fervently share.
The fat lady has sung a blistering aria. All that remains for those of us in the war zone is to receive repair estimates, wait our turn for succor, and be thankful the weather combat has ended — for the time being.
Todd Tarbox, author of several books including “Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts,” lives in Colorado Springs.