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.
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
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