Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 06.05.11
Stanstead, Quebec


How to watch a thunderstorm

Be prepared. That means incessantly checking the Environment Canada weather website to see if that yellow "THUNDERSTORM WATCH" has been upgraded to the panicky red of "THUNDERSTORM WARNING." Announce to anyone within earshot, "They're getting blasted in Brome!"

Don't close your windows. Not yet. You have to wait for that. Wait until the wind rushes in, billowing the curtains like in a haunted house or a Stevie Nicks music video. Only when the rain starts blasting through the screen should you shut the windows. But that's not yet.

Look out your window or stand on your porch to observe the clouds. "Those are thunderheads, all right," you say to no one in particular. In fact, there may not be anyone around at all. Who are you talking to? It doesn't matter, because you're starting to feel the excitement. There's a rumble in the distance.

Look at the cats to see if they're acting strangely. Cats and dogs are supposed to weird out with the approach of a thunderstorm. The cat appears to be licking its nether places. But is it doing so weirdly? Perhaps...

Thrill as the light changes from grey to cerulean to apocalyptic grey. Hey, look at you turning the lights on in the middle of the day! Everything is so topsy-turvy. I mean, who would have thought you could come up with a word like "cerulean"?

Rrrr-gr-rrumble... in the near distance, the muffled growl of thunder, like someone moving furniture in the apartment next door. A blink of light over the trees on the horizon. RED ALERT! THUNDERSTORM WARNING! And it's in effect for the next hour! Woohoo!

Stand on your porch and watch the storm approach. The sky is practically black now. Flash! One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand... mmmgrrrrsssSHH-POWWwww...!

Remember how nervous your mother used to get in a thunderstorm? "Get off the porch! Stand away from the window! Don't use the phone, because lightning can come through the phone line! Get out of the bathtub! Don't use the phone in the bathtub!" Oh, Mom, what a worrier...

FLASH-POW! You jump out of your skin. Not even the chance for a single one-thousand! The cat continues to lick itself.

Rush to your computer and unplug your modem, but before you do, Google "lightning through phone lines."

Back on the porch, watch the lightning flash all around. "Over there! Did you see that? It was forked!"

Debate whether there's such a thing as heat lightning or whether it's just inaudible faraway lightning.

Now wait for the rain.

First stillness, then you hear the trees moving, starting down the street and coming closer to your house, until there's a cool blast on your face. Then a light mist. Then suddenly a curtain of rain bathing the street. The noise is like radio static at full volume punctuated by blasts of thunder and jolts of light. Is the thunder coming before the lightning? Is that even possible? Remind yourself to look that up when you replug the modem.

AGH! The windows! Close the windows!


That was close. Too close. "That definitely hit something," you say, but no one can hear you over the rain, which has turned the road into a river.

Secretly wish for a nearby tree to get struck by lightning but not hurt anyone or cause any property damage.

Tell your kids that, no, they can't run in the rain. In fact, we all better go inside, just to be safe.

Remind yourself to phone your mom.

Feel the rush of the unexpected as the power goes off. Will it be out for minutes, hours, days? Should you empty the contents of the freezer now, particularly the ice cream?

Feel a slight disappointment as the power almost immediately comes back on. Celebrate a minor victory in the fact that the outage was so short you don't have to reset the coffeemaker clock.

PurrBLOOM-CRacklegrrrr... Step out on the porch again as the rain lets up and the storm moves on.

Listen as the birds start to sing; it sounds like, "What the heck? What the heck?"

Plug in the modem. See the all-clear green bar on the weather site. Feel the way you do when the last of the fireworks go off.

Step outside and applaud.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at