Killer weather was in the news last weekend as dozens of people died in the Arkansas region and parts of the Ohio Valley. Much of the devastation was caused by abnormally high winds. Winds have always played their part in history ­p; sometimes major, sometimes not, sometimes reverberating down through the centuries, sometimes just eliciting a bemused chuckle. For example:

In 1980, on the last day of the year, wind-speed records for the British Isles were broken, when winds on Scotland's St. Kilda's Islands were clocked at 198 miles an hour.

Here in Rochester, in 1956, high winds loosened a 500-pound panel on the "Wings of Progress" structure, on top of the Times Square Building.

Most of us have seen the film footage from November 7th, 1940, of Washington State's Tacoma Narrows steel suspension bridge, undulating in high winds like a string of skaters playing crack the whip, just before collapsing ­p; ever after to be known as Galloping Gertie.

Continuing back in time, we come to November 5th, 1904. The University of Oklahoma is playing Oklahoma A&M. Just as Oklahoma A&M punts, a strong wind catches the ball, lifts it higher in the air and carries it off into a creek behind the stadium. University of Oklahoma halfback Ed Cook runs off the field, jumps in the water, reaches the ball, swims back with it, runs back into the stadium ­p; and makes a touchdown. Rules were still a bit flexible in those days.

We take another leap back, a hundred and fifty-six years this time, to February 26th, 1748. Heavy wind gusts explode across Nova Scotia. There are a number of military and merchant ships moored in the harbor at Louisburg. Before the day is out, most of them will lie in the bottom of the bay.

But the most memorable wind in history struck in the year 1281, when a Mongol invasion fleet from the Asian mainland bore down on the defenseless Japanese Islands. The islanders' cause was a lost one. Lost, until winds appeared suddenly, as if by magic or heavenly intervention, and sank the entire fleet, ending any Asian hopes of invasion (this time). The Japanese gave thanks for their salvation to the Divine Wind (kamikaze, they called it.) And when their suicide planes sank Allied vessels in the Second World War, pilots themselves became divine winds.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.

© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte