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Chauncey and Edgar

Jun 27, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Thursday's storm most definitely was something you don't see every day

Readers of a certain age will recognize the following quote from the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoon show:

"Now there's something you don't see every day, Chauncey."

Two old guys would sit on a park bench and comment on the various goings-on in Frostbite Falls, Minn., the setting of the show. Fans will remember that Bullwinkle was a talking moose and Rocky was a flying, talking squirrel.

Sometimes the simple presence of a flying squirrel and talking moose would be enough to prompt the first old geezer, Edgar, to say the aforementioned line to his friend, Chauncey.

Had they been sitting on a bench along Main Street in downtown Riverton late Thursday afternoon, Edgar might have said the very same thing about the rain and hail storm that roared, rumbled, punched and pounded through the Riverton Valley.

Not only was it something you don't see every day, it's not something we see every year. In fact, it's hard to remember the last time anyone around here saw a storm like that one.

Our very helpful and informative friends at the National Weather Service will be able to answer that question (and the answer might be "three days ago," recalling the description of the storms that ripped through some rural areas of our county), but there is another question posed by the storm that we all ought to know how to answer.

What do we do if a sudden natural disaster strikes in Fremont County?

This storm came close to qualifying. No, it wasn't an earthquake. It wasn't a tsunami or a hurricane. It wasn't a tornado, although it was the kind of weather in which twisters spawn.

But it was serious business. It came on very quickly. There were some weather-alert warnings, but those help only if you are tuned in at the right moment. It happened during the middle of a work day, when many people were away from home. It was ferocious and disruptive. It was unusual, and many people had no real frame of reference to apply to it. It affected traffic. It affected businesses. It affected private driveways, yards, roofs, curbs and gutters. It affected cropland and pastures. It caused at least one landslide, raising concerns about a major body of water nearby. It brought down tree limbs. It left some people stranded at home or away from it. It caused widespread alarm and uncertainty. And it sent huge volumes of water everywhere, in a hurry.

On the morning after, it didn't take much to imagine how, had things been slightly worse or slightly different, the storm could have become a real public safety problem. What if there had been a tornado along with it? What if the hail had been just a bit bigger? What if the canal bank along West Adams Avenue had come down in a bigger chunk than it did? What if lightning had downed a power line and a fire had started when streets were inundated with water? What if the rain and hail had kept up for 10 more minutes, or 20?

That is a lot of what-ifs, but Thursday's rain and hail storm had been a what-if for many people until it arrived in such magnitude.

The seasonal press releases from the weather service and emergency management leaders tend to become run of the mill, not to mention attempted words of wisdom from editorial writers. But they are made for a reason. We saw that reason on Thursday. The next time you think they don't apply to you, remember Thursday -- and think again. You'll be better-prepared for that next Chauncey-and-Edgar moment.

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