Dick Hunt's Blog

January 3, 2011

Lightning Storms, Alberta Memories

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 4:56 pm

written by Dick Hunt January 1, 2011
His name was Donny Johnston and he lived in central Alberta. He was from the Parish and Mission which I was responsible for in the Anglican work in the area. His family was active in the Mission and they farmed in the area. He was among a number of boys at a Boys camp of 80 campers  west of Calgary in the  Kananaskis Forest District where I was the Director. Making the rounds of the 8 cabins one night to make sure all was well, I detected a light under the blankets of an upper bunk. I gently eased the blanket back and it was Donny in the glow of the flashlight, reading his Bible.  What can you say?  I had a quiet chat with him, thanked him for reading his Bible and suggested he should go to sleep as it was ten o’clock.  He grinned and turned off the light.  A great boy.  He was ten years old. Later that week, on my late rounds, I noticed that Donny was lying on the concrete floor, cozy in all his blankets and sleeping bag, pillow and all.  He had apparently rolled out of bed with all his bedding without waking and was fast asleep.  I gently woke him, got him back into his upper bunk and tucked him in for the balance of the night.
That same week, it being a nice afternoon, I assented to the absence from camp of all the junior leaders and all but two of the senior leaders so they could go to a movie in Banff, about 30 miles distance.  They left just after the evening meal.  The nurse, the Camp Mother and I got the campers tucked in for the night and thought we were safe for the night.  However, about 10:30,   a violent thunder storm blew in with constant lightning strikes close at hand, lashing rain so heavy that in trying to care for the very frightened campers, we were soaked to the skin, walking in water above our ankles from cabin to cabin.  The power was off and we were reduced to coping with flashlights.  The staff did not get back until midnight as they waited for the  storm to subside
A day or two later I led all the junior leaders up to the top of the adjacent Mountain  to watch the sun come up  There was a fire watch tower up there and we visited the couple who manned it for the Alberta Forest Service.   They said that although they were supposed to record the location and time of all lightning strikes within their vision. they were so mesmerized by the strikes against the vertical  cliff face some two hundred yards from the tower, that they could only record those, some 160 in number.  The husband said his wife’s long hair stood straight up from her head with the powerful static electricity.  And everything metallic within their view glowed a vivid blue.
I also saw the same thing dancing across the Lightning arresters on our large stable on the Ranch where I was born and raised during a violet electrical storm and also on the metal parts of the horses harness during a lightning storm.  In another lightning storm, a flash literally melted a quarter of a mile of barbed wire fence, leaving no residue that we could find.
A neighbour with a old fashioned Battery Radio was in the kitchen when a lightning bolt struck her outdoor clothesline, and the strike jumped across a small gap to the Radio antenae outside her window.  It cooked the radio and jerked the metal hook out of the wall on which the wire connector was attached, along with a piece of the plaster wall.  It also frightened the lady and the smell persisted for some time.
In the very dry years of the 1930’s, we often had very violent lightning storms in the night.  The flares were so constant and seemed so close that we could see clearly every object across the barnyard and the fields.  Yet with all the black clouds and the storms, we never received the much needed rain we so sorely needed.  We used to say of the clouds that “they must have been empties, going somewhere for another load”.  In 1936 a six year old boy  about 60 miles south east of us, ran in to his mother in a panic, saying “Mummy, there is water falling down outside”. At the age of six, he had never known  rain. Hang in there Donny.

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