Summer Thunderstorms and the Race to Weather-proof.
Summer along Colorado’s front range brings thunderstorms like clockwork. Almost every day, between 3:30 and 4:30pm.
Out at the building site, we can see them coming from miles away. Long gray fingers of rain that extend from the clouds to the plains, dark and quickly moving cloud formations, lighting in the distance and then thunder. We stop to count (1 Misissippi, 2 Mississippi…) to see how many miles away the storm is, and then notice which direction the wind is blowing—whether it’s moving towards us or away—and how fast it might come.
Today, we saw the storm coming and knew it would be a big one, but had just one more piece of trim to cut, with a rented table saw due back that afternoon. Christopher was balancing on the ladder, holding the trim against the roof with one hand and waving for a pencil with the other, when the rain reached us. Fast. I was running around the house, slipping through the mud in my Toms, trying to find the missing pencil and hand it up to him. By the time I did, my hair was dripping and we had no choice but to unplug all the power chords, as soon as possible, and get the rented table saw under plastic.
Christopher has been a bit stressed lately, trying to get the house fully weather-proofed, exactly because of moments like these. The afternoon storms last for only 30-40 minutes, but come down so hard that cars often have to pull off the road until they subside. Unfortunately, he’s waiting for his next pay check to come in before he can buy the metal roofing, after which we’ll be able to take down our makeshift scaffolding to put on the house wrap and install the windows. As a result, we’ve seen some of the exposed plywood begin to warp from the weather. Luckily, there’s been no leakage through the tar paper roof—while the slightly bowed wood might look a little awkward, it won’t cause any structural problems and we’ll likely be the only ones to notice it.
Imagine us: throwing a mess of tangled wires and dangling drills and screwdrivers into the house in one jumble. Me rushing in to make sure anything valuable was in a dry space, Christopher still outside, draped in a red flannel blanket, trying to find a spare piece of plywood to cover the door opening, through which the wind was blowing massive amounts of rain onto the exposed floor.
Finally, we gathered our wits and used a spare broom to brush the standing water out through the door. It smelled like wet summer soil and cedar two-by-fours. We slowly calmed and even giggled a bit at the enormity of the storm outside.
“You know,” Christopher said, “Whatever happens…happens. We’re building as fast as we can. There’s nothing else we can do.”
He was sitting on a piece of plywood in the loft, nailing a piece of tar paper over the open window we’d framed just the day before. The rain hit hard against the roof and dripped off the overhanging plywood.
And then he said, “It’s going to be amazing to sleep up here and listen to the rain.”
It was the first time we’d both been inside the house, with time to kill, since the roof went up. We started to imagine the house it would eventually become. The little kitchen that would line that far wall where the circular saw was sheltered, a bench and table under the window that was currently blowing in raindrops.
After about 40 minutes, the rain began to ease and we saw patches of lighter sky appear behind the mountains. We decided to head home, the ground too muddy and soft for us to bring the table saw back out from under its plastic. Huge pools swirled where our footprints had been.
Luckily, things dry quickly here in Colorado.
The afternoon has become a story that will definitely become part of the tiny house. When the roof and siding is up, the kitchen stove in and boiling a pot of tea and we’re watching the rain clouds gather from our table, we’ll remember when it was a plywood box and we had to sweep the water out with a broom, and we got to camp out and listen to the drops like two little kids in a summertime fort.
~ written by Merete Mueller, 7/10/11