01 February 2008

No balloons — and no hot air — today

I'm posting late today because I'm having Internet problems.
They don't seem to be weather-related,
but I'm still trying to figure it out.

This morning's weather in France

Last night was one of those nights when we batten down the hatches. It's nice having shutters we can close on all our big windows. When the wind is gusting as high as 50 mph/80 kph and big drops of rain are flying around, we shut ourselves in and don't worry about it.

Storms here in the Loire Valley and the rest of northern France are no laughing matter. There was a very violent one in December 1999 that caused great damage over a wide area. Tile roofs were blown off houses and thousands of trees, including most of the big old trees in the park at Versailles and a lot of the trees that line the streets of Paris, were uprooted or broken off by high winds. Falling trees pull down electric and phone wires.

The Michelin Green Guide for the Châteaux de la Loire, in the chapter about Blois, 25 miles north of Saint-Aignan, says that that city's cathedral « fut presque entièrement détruite en 1678 par un ouragan » — was almost completely destroyed in 1678 by a hurricane. The word ouragan can be used to describe any severe windstorm, I think, not just tropical storms. The point is, there are very violent windstorms in this part of the world, even if they only strike every couple of centuries or so.

Sunrise at La Renaudière out the kitchen window
01 February 2008

To me, it's still a little strange to be living in a concrete house. In California, and in most places in the U.S. where I've lived, the houses are built of wood. In the San Francisco Bay Area, one reason for that is earthquakes. Wooden houses have a flexible structure that can bend and sway when the earth trembles and shakes.

They also sway when the wind blows hard, and when you walk aaround in them the floors "give" slightly and everything moves just a little. In this concrete French house, nothing much moves. It feels incredibly solid, and with the shutters closed it's like a little fortress.

Three of the shutters we have are the folding metal kind that make all sorts of loud, squeaky, clanking noises when we close them. There are two metal shutters that we shut only when the weather gets pretty stormy. I'm sure the neighbors are glad about that, because the clatter of closing just the one shutter we pull shut every night would wake the dead.

The shutters on our big French doors off the living room are composed of four huge, hinged wooden panels, each the size of a standard door. They shut quietly, and they are easy to deal with because you just step out on the terrace to close them up. The last two shutters, on the kitchen and bathroom windows, are roll-downs — there's a crank inside next to the window that operates them, so they're easy to use too.

The worst thing about most shutters is that you have to open the window to close them. If it's very cold outside, you let in a blast of frigid air, and if it's windy and raining you get wet. But it's still nice to have the shutters for nights like the one we just spent, hunkered down against stormy weather.

The wind was blowing hard enough to scare the poor dog before bedtime last night. She was obviously nervous, and was restless even when she wasn't barking to sound the alarm.

This morning the weather isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I slept like a log between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m, and when I woke up the wind was not gusting too much. Now it's after 8:00 and there are some gusts but not as strong as predicted.

The forecast on TV a minute ago shows a band of high winds
and two bands of rain moving over us around mid-day.

I just saw the weather on France 2 TV, and they say we'll get as much as 1½ inches of rain during the day (35 mm or more). Lucky us, we don't have to go anywhere. The car is in the garage, so it's safe from falling branches. Winds are supposed to hit 90 kph around noontime here. That's 55 mph.

It's time to go around and open all the shutters to see what the situation is outdoors. I'll roll up the kitchen shutter first and take stock.

We had a total of 90 mm of rain in January, but no snow. February is starting off just as rainy. But in comparison, I saw on weather.com the other day that San Francisco and Silicon Valley got 95 mm or more rain in the space of just three days last week. I guess I should stop complaining about our wet weather.


  1. My brother called me yesterday to tell me about the tornado damage in our hometown of Louisville (named after Louis XVI). We scrolled through photos in the Courier Journal together, noting familiar sights.

    My brother is finally enjoying the internet and has learned to google.

    I'm glad you live in a strong house with shutters.

  2. I remember that December 1999 storm!
    I was in Bénerville and woke up in the middle of a dream which took place during WWII and in which my place was being bombarded. I was born at the end of 1944 so never experienced being bombarded! But that was exactly what it sounded like! Really frightening!

  3. I might disagree about "no hot air -- today". ;-)

  4. Gee thanks Ken!!

    And here was I thinking about escaping London's weather by going to France. Guess I will stay here after all.

    I don't know how I was going to travel though - yesterday all the ferry ports were closed in la Manche


  5. Cheryl, ha ha ha ha HA. No matter how much hot air I produce in a day, the weather stays chilly and damp. I guess I'm in the wrong business!

    Evelyn and Claude, the weather today wasn't nearly as bad as had been predicted. It rained. Big deal. But I spent the day working on our router and ADSL modem, which conked out early in the day after a brief power failure. Finally, and for reasons I don't really understand, it is all working again as before. Ce sont les joies de l'informatique !

  6. We've had few storms here in the UK. Even in London, I was woken up when the wind blew over some furniture on my upstairs neighbour's (metal) balcony. Just the weather for locking oneself in and snuggling up warm to the romantic litany of the BBC shipping forecast:

  7. Again snow, snow, snow in Toronto!It will not relent.
    Henry David Thoreau wrote:"Always maintain a kind of summer even in the middle of winter."

    Maybe you'll give us SUMMER X in the morning. Please! We need it...

  8. I have noticed also that after a power outage (or even just an instant brown out) that I have to reset the modem and router. Some of these chips are finicky sometimes.

    BTW February has started like January here in Canada - cold and snow storms/squalls

  9. Beautiful diary and great photos! -- I spend as much time as I can in St Aignan myself (not that much, really). Hope to see you sometime on a saturday morning Place du Marché.


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