I've just come back from my morning walk. I drove Joel to school with the cello, and paced around Princes Park at top speed for half an hour. There's light rain coming down, and I was wearing jeans, t-shirt and long sleeve fleecy. But today is a day of total fire ban, and for the first time last night, with millions of others, I received a text message from the Victorian Police warning of severe winds and fire danger. The radio is full of emergency warnings, but the burden of many of them is that we must stay alert, despite the rain. Forecast top for Melbourne is only 31, but the fire index — that measures temperature, humidity, wind, drought conditions, etc. — is rated over 200 in some parts of the state. The index is designed to range from 1 - 100; and it was well over 300 on February 7. The real danger is the cool change that's going to come through this afternoon, with the possibility of lightning strikes.
It's almost impossible to imagine today as a day of hot wind and fire. Let's hope I'm right.
Meanwhile, The Age website has an article about snowstorms in New England, Washington, New York and Philadelphia. I will have to think very seriously about the coat question before I leave for that last-named place on Sunday week. I do have a couple of coats, but they are all too short, too light, or not waterproof enough for snow. I bought a beautiful green tapestry-style coat in St Louis with fake-fur collar and padded lining, the November we were there, and the locals laughed pleasantly at my sense that I was set up for winter. And by mid-December, when we left, I could see what they meant. I guess I should wait till I'm there to buy something appropriate.
It's very difficult, despite the best evidence of a range of media, to imagine yourself experiencing alternative weathers. I went to New York in July a few years ago, leaving a cold Melbourne winter, and loaded up with coats and jackets I never took out of my suitcase once. Of course this would not be a problem in England: I had to buy a leather jacket there last July.
But what is it about the weather, that even with the help of the fanciest websites and predictions, you really only believe it when you see it with your own eyes, feel it on your own skin?
Update: Oh. I see. Here comes the wind.
Evening update: Winds are still high; and it's still warm. There's so much wind the firefighters in the four major fires still burning have had to be pulled out; and there are trees and powerlines down all over. Apparently there's rain in the south-east, but nothing here yet. We've just been sitting over a glass of wine and some home-made bakewell tart (thanks, Kt!), and I realised there's a thin film of dust or grit on the table. We went outside to say goodbye and the sky is that yellow grey that presages a storm, but the wind is still hot and northerly. I heard someone on the radio on the edge of an area that was burnt out a few weeks ago: she said all there was around the house was ash; and the wind was just lifting it up and blowing it everywhere, so she had lost count of the number of times she had wiped the kitchen bench; and could not get the taste of ash out of her mouth.