An Army of Clouds — Janisse Ray on Global Warming in Georgia

Janisse Ray, a wonderful writer from the South, has a story about an experience she had with climate change in a gorgeous new interactive book just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, called Thoreau's Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming. Well worth a look…

I never saw a spring so stormy. Spring is supposed to be a time of fragrant wisteria and five blue-green eggs the size of jellybeans in a nest box. Spring is mild, emergent, translucent.
    It's March. I wake to rain, an army of clouds that darken and lower by the hour. By midmorning the weather radio pops on with an alert: Tornado watch in surrounding counties. Outside there's lightning, long and brilliant and vicious, accompanied by its sidekick, thunder, rolling in great booms—bowling balls across an alley. I call my mother, who tells me that she and Daddy will get under the stairs if there's a tornado.
    "I have never seen daylight this dark," I say. "This is like night."
    Rain is falling so hard the ground has long since given up absorbing it. The water is two inches deep in places. The alert radio alarms: a tornado has touched down in Dublin. Prepare to take shelter immediately.
    I live in a tinderbox. The house, about eighty years old, is made of heart pine, which is very flammable. Some of the windows come out in your hands when you raise them. In the yard, thirty feet from the back door, an old-growth longleaf pine leans toward the house.
    My dad calls back. He wants me to get into the ditch out by the road.
    "What if I get sucked up?"
"Get in the culvert," he says.
    "And if it floods?"
    We hang up because I want to listen for a roar like a train. It's hailing, ice chunks so big you could bag and sell them. The weather radio is calling out all the places where tornadoes have been spotted. Take cover! Should a tornado touch down you will not have time.
    I put blankets on the floor of the small hallway, next to the freezer. I close all the doors leading to the hall.
    Growing up in south Georgia, I never heard of tornadoes in spring. They came in summer and fall. Scientists say that warmer temperatures will favor the severe thunderstorms that give birth to tornadoes, and it's possible that the tornado season could shift to what used to be the colder months. This looks like the climate crisis to me.
    I wait a long time, thinking: We are being taken by storm. But after a while the sky lightens, and finally the weather robot says that the storms are beyond us, farther east and our county is no longer under a warning. I can come out.

Here's a TV graphic of a tornado that hit Georgia this year. According to the info posted with the picture, an F2 tornado hit Atlanta for the first time this year.


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

2 thoughts on “An Army of Clouds — Janisse Ray on Global Warming in Georgia

  1. Love the P. Boulez quote, and post- thank you! (I’ve disdained conducting sticks at times, too, and love love love the gesture and respect with the tune…). Thanks, too, for the J. Ray inclusion. I’ve read some of her work and really appreciate it, learn from it.


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