Though I understand the term “perfect storm” has existed for a long while, I only became aware of it when I read Sebastian Junger’s book by that name about a particularly severe Nor’easter that happened on Halloween in 1991. The term entered popular culture when that book became a movie, and now one hears of perfect storms quite frequently. The financial crisis of 2008 is sometimes described as having resulted from a perfect storm of events. I think that a perfect storm is any kind of happening where rare combinations of inputs occur, drastically intensifying the resulting situation.
We knew in advance that weather forecasters were predicting a big change in the weather for last Saturday. And given that the high was anticipated to be over 100 degrees with very high humidity and that there was an approaching cold front which would push the following day’s high temperature into the 70s, we could be fairly sure that a few thunderstorms might be generated. Beyond normal storm factors, Nancy and I wanted to be out of town—far out of town, visiting our son in Florida. Jackie, our currently senior-most young helper observed matter-of-factly, “Well, you know we always have big storms when you guys are gone—this is gonna help with the drought…”
And, as if this was not enough, a bus tour group was planning to visit the Farm Saturday afternoon. We prepared diligently for their arrival; the fresh baked cookies and lemonade had been procured, Jackie had prepared with Nancy to give a talk and demonstration, and Phyllis had come out of semi-retirement to assist the presentation and generally make things run smoothly. Even brother Ed was on the scene to assist where needed. Just like in all the major dramas there was a little something to foreshadow what was surely coming. The refrigerator where all that tasty lemonade, cool water and ice reposed was discovered to be non-functioning.
By the time the big “Greyhound-style” motor coach rumbles into the parking area the sky is looking gray and troubled. The Farm staff members are glancing furtively between the radar images on their smart phones and the riled darkening sky. Armed with information from a brother in Morris who was already experiencing a truly intense storm, Ed boards the bus. He suggests to the tour director that since a dangerous storm is imminent, maybe it would be best for the participants to remain on the bus. “Oh no—it’s not so bad,” the tour leader says and then she proceeds to direct the unloading of the bus. Ed glances down at the radar image on his phone. He thinks the angry blotches of red have gone purple. And unlike any storm of any magnitude for the last three months, this one isn’t going north or south; it is poised for a direct hit.
The storm arrives with all of its promised fury. Buckets of rain propelled by strong cold winds pummel the scorched land and absolutely vivid lightening strikes repeatedly resulting in a chorus of almost non-stop thunder. The visitors crowd the Big Barn shop. A mote forms between the Big Barn and Acorn Hall where the talk and demonstration are to be held. But the storm goes on and on. By the time the tour goers are freed from the Barn’s confines it is nearly time to reboard the bus and roll on. So there is no talk or demonstration. Some of the visitors have managed to see a bit of the Farm and they say upbeat things like it is (or was) beautiful and that they will come back. Phyllis and Jackie do their best to hand out brochures and thank everyone for coming.
But there is no real disappointment as the bus pulls out. The Farm didn’t get any new customers—but eventually some might return. More importantly, we didn’t lose any potential customers or staff to lightening, a falling tree, or some other disaster. And we got about two inches of blessed rain. Ah, a perfect storm.