James Lileks
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The forecast called for a dire night. The TV weatherperson gestured at a mass of homicidal red jam heading toward the metro: Take cover in your basement. If you do not have a basement, dig one.

In a few minutes the rain began, hot big splats hitting the ground like toads dropped from an aerial balloon. The wind mussed the tops of the trees, then bent the boughs and made the trunks groan. A great dark spirit seemed to flow into the world and say “All this is mine now.”

It lasted two minutes.

I felt cheated. Stupid, too: I fall for this every time. We don’t have storms anymore. We either have “periods of rain” or “life-extinguishing weather pain horror,” with nothing in between — and the latter rarely turns out to be as bad as predicted.

It’s been like this for years now. Every summer there’s one storm where the TV weatherpeople say, in essence, “We are recommending that residents of Sherburne and Carver counties make their peace with God. The metro also is included under a tornado watch until 10:03, after which any tornadoes will just shut right off.”

No one wants a tornado, which is basically a cloud on bath salts. But I do miss the old disaster warnings.

The radio would scream a high long beeeeeeeep, which made everyone pucker up and pay attention. That meant tornadoes or atomic combat, and it’s not a good day when you think: “Hope it’s just twisters.”

Then a human voice would tell you what was happening. Calm, authoritative, insistently urgent.

Now the emergency broadcast system is announced with the sound of a robot with a fishbone caught in its throat: “Ehhhckk! Ehhhckk! Ehhhckk!”

Then a synthesized voice from 2002 reads the alert like an automated waiter reading the dinner specials, occasionally emphasizing the wrong syllables. “The storm will hit HenEPen county.” Not Hennepin, then? Guess we’re safe.

All I want is a good old thunderstorm with all the familiar drama — perhaps at 3 a.m. No fireworks can compare to the sharp crack of lightning in the dark of night; a hundred timpani couldn’t match the awe you feel in your gut when a marvelous roll of thunder hits and rumbles off into the distance. You hear the wind and water lash the window.

You roll over and go back to sleep. It’ll be a miserable blizzard soon enough. For now it’s hot and loud, and it’s glorious. No one’s happy when it snows in May. But everyone smiles when it thunders in November.