Global Weirding by
(353 Stories)

Prompted By Weather

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The sky was dark when I came out of Pilates at 11:30am on Tuesday, July 22. Two of the young women who work at the club were standing outside, looking at the sky with dread. “What’s up?” “There’s a tornado warning for Vineyard Haven”. “Oh dear, I had planned to go there to grocery shop. Guess I’ll go home first, eat lunch, wait out the storm, then head over.” The women thought that was a better idea. The black cloud came over me as I drove the few minutes home, dumping rain on me. I got an alert that the warning was over, but tornadoes had touched down just across the Vineyard Sound on Cape Cod, in Yarmouth and Harwich. showed the radar with the debris field. I have friends with homes in both towns. I quickly contacted one; his best friend, who owns a home 10 minutes from his was on his way down to survey the damage. I contacted him and got the good news that both their homes had been spared.

A huge thunderstorm had moved through the evening before, causing a brief power outage in our Vineyard home. When I contacted my friend in Harwich, she described the two days thusly: she had a household full of family from around the country. That thunder storm that caused us to be in the dark on Monday night she felt much more keenly. “Monday night was terrifying – I thought for sure, the emerald city was our next stop! But Ohio-based sister and family are very familiar with tornadoes and knew to take down the pool umbrellas, secure the outdoor furniture. Next day, out of nowhere!!! So many trees down, no power- we finally got a portable generator from someone but no internet- it’s a combination of a camping adventure and a series of aggravations! But good news is everyone is fine – no one is hurt.”

A day later the National Weather Service confirmed that a third tornado had touched down briefly on Tuesday in West Yarmouth, painfully close to my two friends’ homes. As one put it, they truly dodged a bullet. This is extremely rare, according to the National Weather Service. Since the beginning of recorded weather history, tornadoes have hit Cape Cod just three other times; one in Woods Hole in October 2018, one at Hyannis/Barnstable Airport in August 1977 and one near Sandwich in August 1968. The weather is becoming more ferocious. “Once in a hundred year storms” are coming regularly.

The last weekend of July, all of northern Europe had an extraordinary heat wave. London saw its thermometer hit 100 degrees, Paris was 109. These are old cities and not equipped with air conditioning. They don’t know how to handle heat waves. July was the warmest month every recorded in Boston. April was the rainiest. Weather records are falling constantly.

We saw it hail one day in Edgartown in late June. No one can remember such a weather occurrence. This is all a result of global warming. The oceans are heating up. The ice caps are melting. There is more carbon in the atmosphere.

I recently heard Juliette Kayyem speak. She is a former Under Secretary of Homeland Security. While her topic was primarily immigration, she took questions. When asked what the greatest threat to our national security is, without hesitation, she said global warming, about which this current administration is doing nothing at all! It will cause MORE immigration, as people across the globe face drought and famine, causing starvation and sickness. Vast populations will be on the move, seeking water and food. Hurricanes will cause thousands of death and trillions in property damage and we will not be able to rebuild on the same locations, causing dislocation. Insurance companies and governments won’t be able to cover losses in places like New Orleans, built below sea level, where the levees will not hold and the houses can no longer be rebuilt as they were, wiping out old communities.

A smart government would make planning for this a top priority, but we don’t have a smart government. We have a government in the pocket of the coal and oil companies, who are about lining their pockets and short-term wealth, rather than the long-term good of their people and the planet. We will all pay for this eventually.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: Cape Cod tornados, April rain, melting ice caps
Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Bravo, Betsy! Well-reasoned and well-written. We’ve got strange, record-breaking weather here in California, too… not to mention record-breaking fires. thank you for painting the alarming picture so well!

  2. Suzy says:

    Good story, Betsy. Starting with the personal – your own tornado experience on MV, and hail in June in Edgartown – and moving to the political. Interesting that the former Under Secy of Homeland Security said global warming was the greatest threat to national security. Time for a new government that will do something about it!

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Betsy, I couldn’t agree more. As we watch the Amazon rainforest burn and polar ice caps melt, our country’s current leadership denies there is a problem. Thank you for expressing so well what I fear is happening to weather right before our eyes.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      The outcry about the Amazon burning is getting louder every day, which is good, but SO much damage has already been done, Laurie. Interesting to hear it referred to as the ‘lungs’ of the world. A terrible loss!

  4. Betsy, absolutely true about climate change and the distribution of consequences around the world – whole populations necessarily on the move just to survive. We are so ill equipped for this. And the local effects are no less notable. I mentioned seeing fireworks from the boat of a neighbor lobsterman in the New London area. He and his family had a thriving business. I understand that with the warming of CT coastal waters there are no longer lobsters to be found there. Just one micro effect among the macro.

  5. Marian says:

    Yes, well said, Betsy. We are still reeling from last year’s wildfires here in California. Even though we were hundreds of miles away, the air looked like fog, and I had to wear a mask whenever I went out. It’s definitely time to pay attention!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      And then came the mudslides, Marian. The devastation was awful. I have a friend in Santa Monica whose house was spared, but had significant smoke damage, so still was out of her house for months. We just cannot continue this way.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    The old saying goes, of course, that no one can do anything about the weather. In the specific sense, that is true, as your recent, nearby tornado attests to. But, as you nicely pivoted your story, climate is a much larger issue and there is much we can do about it. And, as anyone with actual, working brain cells can attest to (which includes DHS and the Department of Defense, but not our current, moronic administration, science denying elected officials and fossil fuel-addicted zealots*), it is a huge issue which MUST be addressed. Thank you for this most important and well-conveyed polemic.
    * That particularly includes David Koch, and may he NOT rest in peace.

  7. John Zussman says:

    I think it was Thomas Friedman who coined the phrase “global weirding” but your story illustrates it perfectly. They say no single weather event can be conclusively tied to climate change but the proliferation of records and rare events like you describe ought to seal the deal. Very powerful.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, John. I’ve been reading a lot of Friedman (Brandeis ’75) lately. I tend to agree with much of what he has to say, so I’m happy to appropriate his term. It surely does fit. And I’m glad you agree that I made my case, unfortunately.

  8. Beautiful narrative, Betsy. Your move from personal experience to political and environmental reality brought the point home very effectively! Although I feel as if we’re living through a waking nightmare with climate change and the current administration, I refuse to despair. With proper focus and support, we may yet break through to a braver, better world. Thanks for this!

  9. There are times when it’s better to keep hope alive because there’s nothing better to do. Not that I’m against sin, but despair used to be considered the eighth deadly sin… Until the church realized that despair made people more malleable… until they snapped!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I did hope, Charles. But every day there is some new insult, between the fires in the Amazon to the Orange asshole changing the regulations for methane. The world is going crazy. Let’s just register every young person we can, make sure they aren’t corrupted by Fox “news” and get them to the polls!

      Since my mind thinks in musical terms, I’m reminded of Mordred’s song from Camelot “Those seven deadly virtues, those ghastly little sins, oh no my lord, those were not meant for me. Let others take the high road, I will take the low. I cannot wait to rush in, where angels fear to go.” etc.

  10. Ha ha! Great strategic suggestion! Great choice of lyrics!!!

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