Picture, if you will

It’s summer in central Florida, and that means afternoon thunderstorms. Some days they’re no big deal; others…

We have a small backyard courtyard/patio area that is nice, but very hot and sunny. We got one of those shade shelter “gazebo” things from Target not too long ago so that the courtyard would be more usable. You know, one of these:

gazebo

(Only instead of looking all grown-up and elegant like that, ours shades the kids’ old Little Tikes slide/climber thingy so they can play out there without getting cooked.) The one problem with the gazebo is that we haven’t been able to figure out how to stake or otherwise secure it to the ground, since it’s sitting on a brick patio. We’ve been pondering and talking about doing something about that, but haven’t yet.

So today, just as we were getting dinner ready, this pops up in my email…

… A Severe Thunderstorm Warning remains in effect…

At 600 PM EDT… National Weather Service Doppler radar continued to indicate a severe thunderstorm [moving into our area] capable of producing quarter size hail… and damaging winds in excess of 60 mph.

Shortly after the warning, the storm hit and we started watching the gazebo with some concern. Mind you, there’s only about 3 feet between it and the house, the fence and the garage. Our concern was justified when we saw the whole structure begin to levitate. It lifted about six inches and started drifting alarmingly toward the fence. Tim and I looked at each other and ran out the door into the storm. We each grabbed a post, pulled the structure off the fence and back down to the ground, and held on. By now it was pouring–we were both soaked to the skin in less than a minute. Then the hail started–some of it nearly as big as ping-pong balls! I wish there had been a way to get a picture or video of us, but we were a little preoccupied.

We were probably out there for about 5 minutes, holding on to the gazebo for (its) dear life, getting pelted by hail and soaked by a deluge of Noahic proportions, when the wind began to shift and lessen slightly and the lightning started picking up. At that point we decided that the risk of the gazebo being either slammed into our house or carried over the fence and slammed into somebody else’s house was now outweighed by the risk of death by lightning. So we went inside.

The storm did move out, and the gazebo stayed put. I was amazed that the neither the metal frame nor the fabric top on the gazebo were damaged at all. The only real damage was to my elbow, where I got hit hard by a big piece of hail (imagine a big ice cube at 60 mph). But tomorrow we are going to figure out how to attach that gazebo to the brick patio! Any suggestions?