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Lightning and Me–We’re Close by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Blue sky but light is fading. Lightning strikes power poles. Dark line of trees across bottom of picture.
Nope, not just ONE pole . . .

When lightning strikes, you probably do not want to be near me.  I’ve never been directly struck by lightning, but too many times, it has struck close by. I opened my apartment door in Houston during a thunderstorm and the bolt hit just outside my door.  All my hair stood on end as I closed the door. I’ve been inside multiple houses when bolts struck the house directly in front of where I sat.

My favorite occurrence of near misses occurred in Pensacola, FL. One of the main thoroughfares is a wide, straight road with regularly-spaced power transformers on poles. I was driving home in a violent thunderstorm, when a lightning bolt flashed through the air, striking a transformer as I passed. Boom! The transformer exploded in sparks. I was startled, but I continued. Boom! The next transformer exploded with another bolt as I passed. A third transformer met the same fate as I drove by it. Boom! Followed by the fourth! Boom!

Grateful to have finally traversed the stretch of the road with the power lines, I now had to cross railroad tracks. Just before I reached the tracks, lightning struck the rails on my right. The electricity sparked as it rushed down the rails in my direction! I floored my car’s gas pedal hoping to outrun the approaching sparks. “Don’t touch the frame of the car,” I told myself. “Surely my rubber tires will protect me.” But after the four power poles, I raced across the tracks just in time and I didn’t have to find out.

So, if you’re ever near me with lightning in the area, you might want to move away. 😊

Elaine A.Powers loves an adventure and never sits still for long. She also writes stories for children that feature adventurous non-human characters, such as Grow Home, Little Seeds.

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My Life with Earthquakes by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I’ve experienced many earthquakes, small and large. I confess, I rather enjoy them.

My first experience was when visiting Alaska as a child with my parents. Little did I know that was just the beginning. Unfortunately, apparently because they don’t distress me, I tend to sleep through the ones that happen at night. I’d much prefer to be awake!

Despite the movement of the tall Japanese hotel we were staying in, I slept through a sizeable earthquake there. My parents told me about the swaying in the morning and explained that the hotel was designed to go with the earth’s movement,  instead of fighting it.

The most surprising earthquake occurred when I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had a nice apartment with my beloved 55-gallon salt-water aquarium. The aquarium sat in my dining room area, near where I worked at the table. I was writing when I felt the earth move. Surprised, I realized there had just been an earthquake. How cool, I thought. I was delighted until I looked over at the aquarium.

Small silver fish swimming in a fish tank filled with rocks and plants and bubbles.
My fish tank was similar to this one. Imagine a wave almost as large as the tank sloshing back and forth.

Fifty gallons of salt water were sloshing in a large wave, back and forth, just like the building in Japan! The wave was strong enough that I was afraid the glass would shatter. On impulse, I ran over and embraced the tank as if I could calm the waves and hold the glass together. The fish and I were greatly relieved when the energy of the wave subsided and their home remained intact.

To learn more about geology and rocks, please see Lyric Power Publishing’s supplemental workbook, My Book on Rocks.

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Natural Disasters and Me: Mauna Loa by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Mauna Loa

When I was in high school, I participated in a summer study program on the Big Island of Hawaii. While studying animal behavior, we also had the opportunity to visit incredible sights on the island. One of our adventures was to camp on the side of Mauna Loa in a cabin. During the day, the entire island had been rocked with multiple earthquakes, 26 in the previous 24-hour period. All the volcanoes monitored on the island were “swelling,” so everyone expected something was going to erupt. The most likely candidate was the currently active volcano, Kilauea.

We arrived at the cabin after a day of visiting the historical sites only to discover that not all of us fit in the cabin. There weren’t enough beds or even space for on the floor for sleeping bags. So, some of us “heartier” students volunteered to sleep outside under the stars. It would be chilly, but we were from states that had winter, and we would be okay.

The stargazing was incredible, and we couldn’t settle down to sleep. There, at the top of the summit of Mauna Loa were flames! It started as a narrow line. Then the flames filled to the top of the volcano.  Mauna Loa was erupting. It had not erupted for 65 years.

Hawaii, Mauna Loa volcano erupting, fiery lava flow and smoke down mountain of hard rock
Courtesy of USGS: 1975 Eruption of Mauna Loa

We pounded on the cabin door to wake our classmates. We ran around the campground yelling, “Mauna Loa is erupting!” Some campers came out to look, but most told us to, “Shut up!” Boy, were they mad the next morning when they realized that Mauna Loa had erupted and they’d missed it.

Our camp leaders thought about driving up to the top of the volcano for a closer look. Hawaiian volcanoes have a caldera that fills with lava before it slops over the side. But the van was nearly out of gas and lava flows at 30 mph, which is faster than we could run (if necessary).

That 1975 eruption burned the observation platform on the side of the caldera and added one more foot of land to the island.

This was my first up-close natural disaster–but not my last.

Elaine A. Powers loves island adventures. She has written fun, adventure-based science books for children set in the Bahamas.