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We are a Christian family in the Deep South, & we love to cook & we love to eat. We are interested in the classics, Latin, ancient history, Byzantine art, technology/geek matters, politics, government, & current events. Mostly we are focused on faith, family, freedom & food. Read our riveting & occasionally amusing posts, admire our outstanding photos, browse timeless archives, leave a comment, & bookmark the site. Come back often!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

We are a Weather Family! We've Been Through Almost Every Weather Phenomenon!

Recently I started thinking about all the weather I have been through over the years. Then I thought about all the weather our family has been through, both together and separately. Wow! We've experienced a lot of weather, and fortunately have come out uninjured.

Let's check the Dyer Family Weather Roll Call, where you will learn about our close encounters with snowstorms, hail storms, ice storms, blizzards, tornadoes, storms at sea, hurricanes, thunderstorms and earthquakes:

  • It all started way back in the mid 1800's. Elsie's great grandmother, Margaret Freer Hutchinson, our first ancestor to come to America from Scotland, was coming to New York and then on to Georgia on a ship when it was hit by a terrible storm at sea in the Atlantic Ocean. The family story goes that everyone helped in some way to save the ship from sinking. The men took shifts bailing water, while the ship's crew did their best to pilot the ship through the storm that had already sunk at least one other ship in its path.
  • Margaret Freer Hutchinson did her part by making hot tea in her teapot for the exhausted men who came in from the cold and the rain after their shifts of bailing water. And somehow, by the heroic efforts of all on board and by the grace of God, the ship made it through the storm and on to New York and Georgia, although much later than scheduled.

  • In another family story about weather, Jerry has told us several times about the time he and his family, who lived way out in the country in Alabama, were working on the farm and their chores. His mother, Dorothy Arrie Stewart Clements, looked up and noticed the sky looked particularly ominous. A dangerous storm was approaching, and she didn't need the Weather Channel to tell her either. She was able to forecast the weather as well as any meteorologist today.

    She told everyone to hurry and go to the house, which they did, and then they all got under the kitchen table and covered themselves as well as they could with quilts. Grandmother was right - a terrible storm soon came, and luckily their small house was not in the direct path of it. But the wind and rain were severe, and they were all afraid.

    A few days later, they rode around and surveyed the damage caused by the tornado and the accompanying storm, rain, and wind. Lots of damage to homes, farm buildings, trees, and they felt very lucky to have escaped its wrath.

  • Fast forward a few decades, to the time when Dan and I lived in Minnesota. We always had a lot of snow there, starting in October and lasting until spring thaw in late April or May. But one year, we had a blizzard, meaning very heavy snow that came down steadily for more than 24 hours. And the wind was strong too. When it cleared out, we had very deep snow on top of the snow that was already on the ground. We learned first-hand about blizzards.

  • A few years later in 1976, when we had moved back to Knoxville, we were awakened in the middle of the night by an earthquake. Yes, an earthquake in Tennessee. Even though we had not ever been in an earthquake before, we both knew immediately what had happened. I even knew, from the way it felt, which direction it had come from. The news the next day confirmed it, and we learned that it was a 4.6 magnitude quake.

  • The first winter we were in Roswell, in 1978 or 1979, we experienced our first ice storm in our first house on Boxelder Lane. It stared out as a cold rain, then the temperature dropped below freezing and the rain continued. It began to freeze onto the needles of the pine trees in our area, and especially on the ones in our yard. The weight of the ice, combined with the wind, eventually caused the pine trees to snap in two, usually about 10-12 feet off the ground. Some of them simply were uprooted.

    Electrical transformers were popping all over the place, and eventually we had no electricity. We discovered to our alarm that one of the uprooted trees had also uprooted our natural gas line and our telephone line. So natural gas was spewing out at full line pressure, we had no power and no telephone, long before cellphones.

    When it was all over, we had lost 19 or 20 pine trees, our yard was covered with downed trees and littered with storm debris. Fortunately, no trees had hit our house, but it took months of hard work before we got it cleaned up, with the help of one of our nice neighbors.

  • A few years later, we had a very cold spell, and the lake in our neighborhood froze. Froze almost solid. In Georgia. We had so much fun walking around on a frozen lake. Some people were skating. It was so cold we had to put on our down vests, down parkas with hoods, and winter mittens to be able to stay out in the cold and walk around the lake.

  • On March 24, 1983, Dan was working at a trade show at a convention center in downtown Atlanta. It began to snow, but Dan and the others were inside the building and couldn't see outside. It continued to snow, and by the time it was over 7.9 inches had fallen, the second heaviest snow in a single day on record for Atlanta.

  • Dan and his fellow workers thought about checking into the hotel and wait until it was safe to travel, but all the rooms were taken. Dan is an excellent driver in all weather and road conditions. However, if the cars around you are slipping and sliding in the snow and ice, or if they are just stuck in the snow and cannot move, it doesn't matter. You are stuck too.

    But anyway, Dan decided to try to make it back home, a distance of about 20 miles. Fortunately, I had shown him a few shortcuts and back roads to take that I had learned in my years of commuting down to Georgia Tech, so he did know some alternative routes. But the roads were hilly, covered in deep snow, and many were blocked by cars that had gotten stuck in the snow. Perilous stuff.

    Of course, I was worried sick, especially since I was pregnant with Matt at the time. It was way past midnight, and he was not home. Some of his coworkers who lived close to downtown and had made it home called me and said that he had left many hours ago. Where was he! Frozen in the car? In a car crash and injured? In the hospital somewhere? Still on the road? Forced to abandon the car and walk to a nearby home downtown? Lost in a snowdrift?

    But I knew in my heart that if Dan had said he was coming home, he would be home, one way or another. And finally, he did make it home at last, but with harrowing tales of near misses with other cars, sliding down hills in the snow, dangerous, icy curves in the roads, having to re-route all the time due to blockages and impossible hills to climb, but he was home, finally, safe and sound!

  • February 12, 1985 was the day Jason was born. It was also the day we had a snow/sleet/ice storm. I was in the hospital where I had been for many days due to complications, and this was the day I was scheduled for a C-section.

    This was to be Jason's birthday, I had picked the day myself (Lincoln's birthday) and because of the snow, my doctor was stuck at home, unable to get to the hospital for our scheduled slot in the operating room. I didn't want another doctor, and I didn't want another day for the surgery. No more waiting. This was it, no further discussion.

    So Dan, trooper that he always is, offered to go get the doctor at his home in our sturdy Suburban. While that was being discussed back and forth, the doctor did manage to get to the hospital, but it was quite late in the day. I told Dr. Levine that he needed to go down to OR and do a little horse-trading, and get us back on the schedule for that day. He could tell from the tone of my voice, and all we had been through together before, that I was serious. After a while, he came back, horse-trading complete, and we were on for 6PM that evening. And at 6:22 we had Jason in our arms!

  • We had a few years of uneventful weather until March 13, 1993, when The Storm of the Century hit. This was a blizzard that broke all the records for Atlanta. First of all, we don't have blizzards here in the sunny south. But we did, and it was incredible. We saw Glenn Burns of WSB TV show it on the radar, and he said there was no doubt it would be here early the next morning. But we got up that morning, and there were just a few flurries.

    But Glenn Burns had said it was coming, so we waited. And did it ever come! Winds peaked at 61mph, the snow came at 4-8 inches per hour, and some areas got 18-24 inches of snow. We got about 8-10 inches, with much deeper drifts. The kids had so much fun, and so did we. Lucky also had a ball, but the snow was almost deeper than he was tall.

  • Somewhere in this time frame, we also had a hurricane that came through. We are not supposed to have hurricanes this far from the coast, but this one was unusual. I think it was Hurricane Ivan or Hurricane Earl, and it made landfall on the gulf coast of Alabama or Mississippi, I think (not real sure). Hurricanes are supposed to slow down and break up once they get to land, but this one did not. I remember so well the howling winds and the blinding rains as they hit our house and windows at a diagonal and sometimes a near horizontal angle. It came all the way through Georgia and went all the way up the northeast, dumping tons and tons of rain. I think it might have made it all the way to Massachusetts and Stewart and Kim and Jessie.

  • Also around this time, Dan took Jason to NASA in Huntsville to visit some customers, just for fun. They had a great time, and Jason got to see the neutral buoyancy simulator (NBS) tanks that NASA uses to train the astronauts in weightlessness, as well as other neat stuff.

    They were driving to Greenbrier's BBQ for lunch when Jason looked out the window and, get this, saw a small tornado touch down. This was more than a dirt devil, it was a real tornado, although small. They heard about it from other people, and were quite excited to see something so unexpected from the natural world. This was particularly noteworthy because Jason at that time wanted to be a storm chaser or a meteorologist, and was devoted fan of Warren Faidley, the famous storm chaser/lightning/photojournalist.

  • On April 8, 1998, I was driving with Matt and Jason somewhere, and Jason piped up that he had been studying the weather and clouds that day, in consultation with a website called EarthWatch.com. OK. Jason had printed out the radar images for our area and he announced that we had better be prepared for some extreme weather, like tornadoes, because he had seen a hook echo on the radar. OK. I didn't know what a hook echo was, but I did take his word for it, and kept an eye on the weather, just in case.

    In the middle of the night, Jason came flying into our bedroom, and alerted us to the weather. As in, severe thunderstorm, heavy rain, howling winds, and continuous lightning. Lightning that had such short intervals between the strikes that it seemed that there was continual light in the middle of the night. Jason wanted to go immediately to the basement for shelter from the storm, but we decided to just wait it out. Then the power went out. And stayed out until morning.

    Around 10AM, we began to get tired of waiting for the power to come on, so we all piled into the car and drove to a fast food place to get some breakfast. We had to drive quite a distance because the power outage was extensive. After eating, we drove around some more, and discovered that a tornado had been through Norcross, Peachtree Corners, Technology Parkway, and beyond. It was an F2 storm, but the damage was so extensive, I would hate to go through anything higher.

    Power lines down, live wires across the roads, trees down, roofs taken off buildings, debris everywhere. My church had extensive damage to its roof, a friend's roof had blown off her home while she and her family were huddled in a corner, and a several gas stations were completely ripped apart. Lots of other damage everywhere. This storm and its associated tornado stretched from Marietta, Dunwoody, Norcross and Duluth, or Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

    We were so lucky to have had no damage, even though the tornado came down only a mile from our house. The cleanup took months and months, and some places were never restored. But I'll never forget that young Jason who loved to study weather had so accurately predicted the calamity that befell our area that night.

    Below is the radar map of weather data Jason studied on EarthWatch.com that accurately predicted that we would have severe weather soon, and probably a tornado:

    Here are some photos Jason took shortly after the tornado hit:

    Here is a map of our area that shows the places where the tornado touched down (hat tip-About North Georgia):

    Here are some aerial images of the tornado damage, taken from the NOAA website:

  • Sometime around 2004, Dan had to take a business trip to Shanghai, People's Republic of China. He traveled for about 24 hours before finally arriving at his hotel, taking a hot shower, and falling into bed from exhaustion. His rest was short-lived, however, because he woke up with a start. He had the feeling that someone was in the room and was shaking his bed to pieces. He turned on the light quickly and saw the walls, light fixtures, and doors of his hotel room swaying and rattling. Earthquake! Welcome to Shanghai!

    He got dressed and went down to the lobby and found everyone else there too. By that time the earthquake had passed, except for some disturbing aftershocks, but it seemed the worst was over. He read in the paper that the quake had originated in the South China Sea, but could be felt in many part of China. I think it was a 6.2 magnitude earthquake, but that might had been at its epicenter, so it would have been less in Shanghai.

  • Matt had all kinds of weather when he was in Houston, but the most exciting of all was Hurricane Rita, which fell a short time after Hurricane Katrina, and we all know about that. He had been keeping an eye on the weather reports, and Rice University had said they were able to withstand all levels of hurricanes. But I looked on the weather radar and saw that Hurricane Rita was an F5 and was heading straight for Houston. Matt took off in a car with a friend, and they were heading north to her relative's house --- along with about a trillion other people.

  • All the roads and highways out of town were clogged with cars and trucks, and many lanes blocked when cars would run out of gas or just be abandonned. After about 12 hours on the road, Matt and Becky had made virtually no progress toward their goal, and were still stuck in traffic, low on gas, and tired. So they went to the friend's house in Sugar Land, Texas, where her parents were quickly making hurricane preparations, having been through this before.

    So Hurricane Rita weakened a bit down from an F5, and Matt and the kind family that took him in came through it in fine shape. They had hurricane straps on their house and were on a hill, and had all the necessary provisions and preparations at hand. Whew!

    Here are some images I copied to give you an idea of what Hurricane Rita looked like:

  • One last note about our family and the weather. Even our dogs are affected by weather. Spanky is absolutely terrified of thunder, lightning and heavy rain. He goes into an altered state of consciousness, running about wildly, tail down, eyes wild, panting, drooling, fearful glances out the window to see what the weather is doing. He will not be comforted, he will not be calmed, he will not stay still, he will not go into a closet or stairwell where he is shielded from the storm, he just has to wait it out. Spanky has always been this way, and I think changes in the weather affect his ears. We usually know well in advance that rain is coming, because he starts his fear of thunder syndrome. And then when it is over, it's as if it never happened. He just reverts to normal and that is that.

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    Friday, March 21, 2008

    Storms, Tornadoes & Hail, Then Suddenly Spring is Here!

    We've had a strange winter this year, with lots of rain and wind, followed by sunny, warm days. Back and forth, over and over again.

    Recently downtown Atlanta had an F4 tornado that went through town for six miles. Six miles! Downtown Atlanta! Unreal. Many homes in the Cabbagetown area were completely leveled.

    Then a day or so later, another storm came through, and we had tornado warnings all over the place, all over again.

    There is a screen shot of the storm on TV. Rather menacing looking, and rightly so.

    Then we saw a series of radar images that showed just how powerful these storms were. We learned the meterological term "training," which means the storms follow one another in a line, just like the cars in a train. This means that an area can get hit over and over again with successive storms.

    We were in a tornado warning, and then we noticed that the meteorologists on TV were forecasting a severe storm with hail would hit our town in a mere 10 minutes. Ten minutes! And we had two cars outside in the driveway with no room for them in the garage, because two other cars were already there.

    Some areas near us were reporting hail the size of grapefruits and golf balls. We knew hail that size could ruin a car or its windshield. So Dan and I immediately jumped into the cars in the driveway and drove through heavy rain and high winds to the nearest bank that had a covered and spacious drive up area.

    Below are a few photos I took of the hail that came down almost as soon as we had both cars under the canopy of the bank. We barely made it in time, and in just a few minutes, all the space was taken up with other people trying to save their cars as well.

    Dark skies warn of the approaching storm and hail.

    Here's the hail, or at least the beginning of it.

    And more hail.

    Lots of hail on the street and the grass.

    My view of the hail coming down, from the safety of the drive up covered canopy at the bank.

    I've seen lots of hail over the years, but it has always been small, round, and marble sized at the largest, usually much smaller. The hail we had the other day was much larger and very irregularly shaped. Looks like it is a conglomeration of lots of pieces of hail, that just got joined together on the way down.

    And then that was over, and a few days later, it is sunny, warm and springlike. Today is the first day of spring, and you would never know we had had such powerful storms and hail only a few days ago.

    Here are some interesting photos of my compost heap. Several weeks ago, I had thrown out some scraps of collard greens, and now look at them. Instead of dying, decomposing and turning into dirt, two of them have rooted and are growing! Now we can eat more collards, from our own compost heap garden!

    My daffodils came through the storm well, and continue to bloom their hearts out.

    Our Hearts-a-Bustin' shrub has been devastated and devoured by the deer. At one point, it had no leaves, just bitten off twigs. Now if you look closely, you can see little leaf buds forming. Spring is here!

    This looks like a Blue Eyed Grass that has emerged from its winter slumbers. It will be blooming soon.

    And the azaleas are in full bud, and will be bursting with bright pink flowers very soon.

    Here are two photos of an apple I threw down the hill for the deer. And they found it! Look at those big bites that have been taken out of it. The next day it was completely gone. Our deer love to eat apples!

    Here are some deer tracks we saw today at Simpsonwood.

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    Saturday, March 08, 2008

    Further Adventures in Prosphora / Liturgy Bread Baking: Orthodox Christian Holy Bread Using Byzantine Bread Stamps/Seals from prosphora.org

    More fun baking Holy Bread with orthodox Christian bread stamps/bread seals!

    I tried my hand at Holy Bread again (see previous post), and this time I used the smaller bread stamp. It was the Russian Prosphora stamp that measures about 3 inches in diameter, with the ICXC NIKA inscription in the center [the Lamb], and four small crosses on the outer edges. I had better luck this time and seem to be catching on to the technique.

    The recipe I used was
    Foolproof Prosphora Recipe [Russian-Style Commemoratives], calling for only 3 ingredients: 1 tsp. active dry yeast, 1 3/4 -2 cups warm water, and 7 cups all-purpose flour.

    Armed with about 20 pages of print-outs from the
    http://www.prosphora.org/ site and another one from http://serko.net/ that had articles by Father George Aquaro and Peter Serko on "The Holy Art of Prosphora Baking," I assembled the equipment and ingredients. Before starting, I said the blessing/prayer:

    "O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who has said: Without me you are nothing! O Lord, My God, with faith I accept your words. Help me, a sinner, to prepare the offering, that the works of my hands may be acceptable at the Holy Table and may become works of Thy Holy Spirit, the communion of 'Thy Most Pure Body for me and all Thy people.' In the the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

    As I understand it, the prosphora, or Holy Bread, is the bread used for communion or as an offering for consecration in in various orthodox Christian churches, based on ancient traditions.

    My fear is that I am somehow violating the ancient rites, in that the bread I make is not used for communion or any ceremonial purposes within the church. It is simply used as bread for my family's table, with the ancient symbolism of the stamps to remind us of religious icons and traditions. I will email Fr. Aquaro to clarify this, because I don't want to use Holy Bread in an unacceptable way.

    I have also purchased the book, "Bread and the Liturgy: The Symbolism of Early Christian and Byzantine Bread Stamps," by George Galavaris, University of Wisconsin Press, 1970. I'll put the order information below if you are interested in ordering this valuable out-of-print book. I have just started reading it, but it is a priceless resource for understanding the use of bread in the rituals of the early church.

    Here are the photos that illustrate the steps in making Holy Bread:

    Mix the yeast, warm water and flour until batter is sticky and well-blended, then switch to the dough hook, gradually add more flour, and mix until it cleans the sides of the bowl.

    Divide the dough into two parts, one smaller than the other, and finish kneading them on the counter until they are smooth and not sticky. Prosphora always has two layers, and each ball of dough will be a layer, with the larger one on the bottom and the smaller one on top.

    Bottom layer: press it out with your fingers in a circle, then roll it out into a larger circle with your rolling pin.

    Using your 3 inch biscuit cutter, cut out the dough, and place on a cookie sheet.

    This cookie sheet holds a dozen loaves, and I added three more on a second sheet.

    With a pastry brush, lightly brush the bottom layer pieces with a little water, just enough to make the dough moist, but not soaking wet. This is so the two layers will stick together.

    Here are the moistened bottom layer pieces.

    Now roll out the second dough ball, and cut out with a slightly smaller biscuit cutter. Then imprint the dough with the bread stamp, pressing just hard enough to make a good impression.

    Here's what mine looked like.

    This is a photo of the bread stamp I used. The image is reversed, but it will look right when you press the bread.

    Here's a nice side view of the top layers and the bread stamp.

    Next, carefully place the top layers on the bottom layers, and keep them aligned in the same direction. Then, using a skewer or toothpick, pierce the bread in five places, symbolizing the five piercings of Jesus on the cross.

    Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place.

    While the bread is rising, it's time to clean up the kitchen.

    Here is the bread after rising to about double its size.

    Into the oven at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.

    Since the bread has been blessed, it should not be thrown away. You should save your scraps, cook them, and spread them outside for birds and wildlife, or put them on your compost pile for your garden.

    The bread is done when it is a light golden color, not brown, but very light.

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