Forget your hurricane—what’s your chances of getting hit by one, anyway?

We in the Cycladic islands of Greece know that every summer, especially July and August (peak tourism season) we will suffer from the Meltemi.

These strong north winds have been known since ancient times. They are created by a low pressure area over what is now Turkey and a high pressure area over what is now Hungary and the Balkan countries. The winds are accentuated by the mountainous islands rising above the cool seas and typically reach speeds of 30 mph (18 kph) but not uncommonly up to 50 mph (35 kph) and classified as Severe Gales. The wind is warm and dry and brings cloudless days.

Sailors may like these high winds—as long as they are headed south—but those of us living on an island in their path dread them. Not so much for their strength as their persistence, sometimes lasting up to 10 days, usually 3 to 5 days. The constant howling and whistling through the trees and around the buildings becomes like a tooth ache that won’t go away. Brown dust pours in under the door and around any window gaps. You can’t go anywhere to escape; you lay on the beach and the sand blasts your body; you head into the sea and the choppy water sprays salt into your face. Can anything be worse than this, I ask you?

Also take pity on the poor gardener. In this country most plants grow well, fast and lush with plenty of moisture and warm sun. Then along comes the Meltemi and turns the leaves to brown flakes through the constant buffering by dry wind. I personally have spent an hour watering with a hosepipe in the morning and seen the plants all shriveled that afternoon. Who needs a hurricane to suffer disaster?

Of course our silver lining to these warm, cloudless days is the fact that the Meltemi only comes howling through once or twice a month so that the gentle breezes the rest of the time keep us cool and refreshed despite the constant sun. It’s called natural air conditioning--it's free.

1 comments:

At May 16, 2006 8:56 PM Chana said...

that was pretty interesting. never heard of it before...

 

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