How weather changes history

Published 8:04am Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The wedding of Julie Heard and Ralph Jones, Jr., both of Southwest Georgia lineages was long scheduled at the beautiful gulf front setting at Alys Beach. Situated on famed State Road 30A, Alys Beach lies between Rosemary Beach and Santa Rosa Beach.

This stretch of the Emerald Coast was one of the last pristine dune covered beaches left when development began by the major property owner, St. Joe Paper Company.

All who have traveled this bit of highway in the past few years have seen what planned communities can be like when there is no shortage of demand. Community after community is the destination of families from around the country and indeed the world. People are drawn by the world class cuisine, boutique shops, sugar-like sand, and clear green water.

Little was left to chance as Julie and her mother planned every last detail for a fairytale wedding. Like all brides that plan an outdoor wedding, however, there is still the small detail of the weather.

Mary Lou and I made the journey down on Friday evening. We woke up on Saturday morning to severely overcast skies. By noon, it was a steady drizzle. An hour later, it was a steady downpour.

Wishing the best for our friends, we constantly checked the weather radar on our phones and iPads, fearing the worst as we saw the bands of showers coming in from offshore. It didn’t look very promising.

Planning for the worst, I followed my Dad’s lead after he moved to the beach and wore Topsiders without socks, thinking that wet shoes and socks would only add to the misery in the forecasted rain.

God does indeed answer the prayers of the mothers of the bride as the rain ceased an hour before the ceremony. For the next couple of hours, the rain steadily poured to the east and the west, but Alys Beach was spared. The result was a spectacular time, not only for the honored couple, but also for anyone that attended in spite of the rain.

I understand the fear of the parents having an outdoor wedding. Our first daughter, Catherine, had her wedding during the weekend of the record-setting Hurricane Katrina. Most don’t remember that it was headed directly for Southwest Georgia before turning toward its deadly destination of New Orleans.

Our second daughter, Elizabeth, not only had an outdoor reception but also an outdoor wedding. The day before her wedding, there was a band of horrible tornadoes that leveled the high school in Enterprise, Ala., and the hospital in Americus, Ga.

Between the tornadoes on Friday and the record cold on Sunday, we had a beautiful day for a wedding. However, there was no Plan B.

Unusual weather is all around us. In the past week we have experienced record cold, just days after temperatures in the high 80s. In the northeast, there was more snow on Halloween and after Easter than during the prime snow periods in the middle of the winter.

Times past are full of weather events that changed the course of history. Just this past week, we reflected back on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great cruise ship, Titanic, as she struck an iceberg drifting unusually far south for that time of year.

As we face more frequent dry spells, we are reminded of the greatest weather event in modern American history, the Dust Bowl. Hundreds of thousands of families faced poverty and economic ruin as the lengthy drought turned productive farms into dry, dusty fields.

The dramatic clearing of the fog on D-Day may not have determined the final fate of World War II, but it certainly played a decisive role in allowing the Allies to gain footholds all along the beaches on France.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed over three square miles of downtown Chicago. While often blamed on Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, it was the windy weather that actually caused the destruction that reduced the city to ruins.

The previously mentioned Hurricane Katrina remains the standard by which the entire Southeast measures the power of Mother Nature. Years later, huge swathes of the Gulf Coast still struggle to rebuild from the devastation of this powerful storm.

But despite the many stories of the power of dangerous storms and weather events, we are occasionally blessed and spared by the breaking of the weather.

Some might call it chance or the luck of draw. Others might say they knew the weather would break all along. Still others might give credit to the power of the prayers they lifted up asking for good weather.

Whatever the reason, and I expect there was more than a little prayer going on here, Ralph and Julie Jones began married life with the sound of thunder in the distance but not a single umbrella open.

As they look back over the coming years, Ralph & Julie can add their wedding day to the long list of events where weather played a part in their own history.

Good Luck and Best Wishes.

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