Brian DeNeal: One monster storm after another

Brian DeNeal

Friday's storm in Saline County, Ill., was a derecho. It is a Spanish word. It means Barney the dinosaur's obnoxious brother.

At least that's what it looked like on the radar -- a big dinosaur head with a goofy grin.

Derecho visited us Friday afternoon singing his clamorous song: I love trees! I love electric poles! I love Amish school houses! Crunch, crunch!

Derecho is the clutsy kid your mother makes you share your toys with, even though you know he'll break them. But before you even get the chance to shout, "You better buy me a new one!" he is running off to the next kid and wrecking his stuff.

Then when we are outside scratching our heads, the whole neighborhood without power, trees snapped, news circulating about whose roof is caved in or whose truck is crushed, the meteorologists tell us what happened: Derecho came.

We don't need another derecho visit. But as I write this Wednesday afternoon, there is a new monster forming in southwest Missouri. This new beast is mesolow.

Mesolow is the chubby-cheeked girl who has a lollipop in her hand and a crush on derecho. She runs along his messy trail. Mesolow is the loud girl in the neighborhood who breaks your glider swing and doesn't give a hoot.

Winds and a tornado watch herald her steady eastward approach.

Friday afternoon I spent an hour uprighting the sun umbrellas and patio tables and chairs at The Lafayette Inn. My wife, Vicky, works there part time, and I help out sometimes. We knew the patio furniture was set up Thursday and knew there was a storm in the forecast. We did not anticipate a derecho, bringing near hurricane force winds.

An umbrella was blown into the iron fence surrounding the historic bed and breakfast. All six tables were overturned and all 22 chairs were on their faces. All six umbrellas were dirty, some soaked with rain water.

There was one guest scheduled. Then the phone rang and continued to ring for hours.

Storm refugees arrived through the night Friday and Saturday. A man in Marion had been chainsawing all day and wanted a shower to wash away the sawdust and pine sap.

A couple had a tree on their roof, but then they canceled their reservation because of a sick dog.

People arrived from Carbondale, Marion, West Frankfort and Thompsonville, all preferring to spend some money rather than sit in a dark house.

Then people coming to see their kids graduate Southern Illinois University started calling because the hotels between Harrisburg and Carbondale were either filled or out of operation.

For hours over the weekend we vacuumed, cleaned toilets, made beds, laundered bed sheets, lost keys, found keys and directed the out-of-area guests.

The graduating kid in Carbondale needed bottled water and white gas.

His father told us about California wine and wanted to know about area coal mining. He and his wife played gin rummy on the sun porch and he curled his hand to show me his flush of spades and winked.

Another guest told us about his planned cruise up the Alaskan coast and rail tour. We talked about eating raw conch in the Grand Cayman Islands and then he left to go see the new Wolverine movie.

Two pregnant sisters-in-law invited us to visit Chicago sometime for a tour of haunted bed and breakfasts near their neighborhood.

There was no more weather. Cable service was sporadic, but seemed to be restored by the end of Friday night.

No one commented on the muddy patio chairs I had intended to clean before the rush on the rooms began. Friday and Saturday, everyone was safe and comfortable and they could put storm damage out of their minds for a while.

These cyclonic monster storms had better be about done. The grass is too tall and the crops and gardens need planted. And I'm tired of these dinosaurs blowing grit in my eyes.

Daily Register