Appalachia Genealogy Granny

Equinoctial Storms


We’ve had stormy weather for the last several days. Over four inches of rain has fallen and the thunder and lightning have been fierce.

Yesterday’s round of storms took out Granny’s tv. There was several hours of rolling thunder with a few earth shaking claps that made me jump. I’m guessing one of the lightning strikes that proceeded the loud burst is what got Granny’s set. She said it sounded like it hit directly in the corner of the living room.

I bet the power blinked off at least a dozen times during the spate of storms.

Earlier today Chitter and I were down at Granny’s talking about the recent weather.

Granny said “You know my Grandpa Truett always called storms that came in as the seasons changed equinoctial storms. If it started storming way in the night he’d get up and put all his clothes on and sit in a chair till it was over. Sometimes the rest of us would get up and set with him.”

Knowing her grandpa lived with Granny’s family in his later years I asked her if that’s where she got her fear of storms.

She said “Yes I guess it is why I don’t like storms.”

Granny’s always been afraid of storms. When Steve, Paul, and I were growing up, she had all kinds of admonitions about storms, specifically about lightning.

According to Granny you can’t take a shower, talk on the phone, or run water when it is lightning. You also can’t flush the potty or stand by a window.

And, at all costs, Granny said you should have shoes on even if you’re inside the house when its storming, and she means real shoes not some sort of flimsy house shoe.

Granny had so many warnings about lightning that Paul and I started making up our own.


  • don’t stand on one foot and open the frig or it will draw lightning.
  • don’t cross your right arm over your left arm while crossing your left leg over your right leg because it will draw lightning (obnoxious I know)

Silly or not Granny lives by her “lightning rules” and if you happen to be with her in a storm she’ll make sure you do too.


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  • Reply
    May 8, 2021 at 3:30 pm

    Tipper! You mentioned the Truett family name….Rev. Tom Truett was pastor at Antioch Church in Union County in the ’50’s….baptized me in Caney Creek on hwy 64 in 1955. Same family? Thanks!

  • Reply
    Judy Hays
    May 6, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    My mom, who would have been 95 this year, was always afraid of storms. If my dad was out of town, my mom would bring a mattress and put it on the floor next to her bed. Us kids would sleep there in her bedroom. She always wanted us close to her. I’m not scared of storms but I certainly respect them. Like Granny, I do make sure I have on “real” shoes if a strong storm comes through.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 9:47 pm

    My Grandmother would have her kids and later her grandkids get on a feather bed during “an electrical storm”.

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    May 6, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    When I was a child and a storm came up everyone would get in the same room, all electric plugs were pulled from the sockets and you were very quite (you did not say a word). Every now and then momma would whisper some instructions to us This was especialy enforced if the storm was at night. It was interesting.

  • Reply
    Angela Zappa
    May 6, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Tipper! I found your website My Gramma Zappa told me she got hit by lightning inside through a window talking on telephone and the doctor said that her rubber soled shoes saved her! She was badly shook but unharmed! The Good Lord protected her.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    My grandma made us all mind the aforementioned rules plus sit on feather pillows in the middle of the room. She was an only child and lost adults in the family when she was young…maybe that contributed to her fear of storms ( or anything threatening her ‘kids’!)

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 6, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    Tipper, these posts have reminded me of the word “thunderstruck”. I have not heard it since the 1970’s but it was in use in southeastern KY when I was growing up. There is even a placename of Thunderstruck Shoals on Cumberland River. I’m unclear on whether it was the same as lightening struck or not. Is it in The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English?

    • Reply
      May 6, 2021 at 6:00 pm

      Ron-I looked and it’s not in there-maybe it will be in the new edition 🙂

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      May 6, 2021 at 9:37 pm

      I think thunderstruck is when you hear a sudden noise that causes you to freeze. It is a shocking experience without the electrical component. People have died from it. Their heart just stops. I’ve had moments like that. I would hear something and I would stiffen all over, unable to move, for a few seconds.
      Thunderstruck was also a song by AC/DC. How do I know? My son learned to play parts (riffs, I think is what they call it) on the guitar.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    I want to reply to two things. I think I saw ball lightening one afternoon at work during shift change A blue ball of lightning or fire was rolling across the floor of the dock as I came in the door. Some on the outside got shocked by this lightning strike but not badly hurt. I know of one instance of lightning striking a home and then running underground for quite a distance before destroying the toilets in a country store restroom. I know it did not run a water line because both places had well water. I came close to being hit one time, I could feel my skin tingling and the static in my hair but was able to duck inside a shed.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Those rules about not showering, running water, standing by a window, or talking on a land line are all valid. When I was growing up, we turned off the TV during a storm, too.

  • Reply
    Frances Jackson
    May 6, 2021 at 11:52 am

    As a small child i was terrified of storms. Once when there was a storm going on with lots of lightning and thunder, my daddy carried me out onto the porch, and held me in his arms, and he talked quietly to me about how interesting and beautiful the streaks of lightning were, and about how the rumbling of thunder was the sound of angels playing with bowling balls. He said that beautiful things can sometimes be dangerous, but he didn’t want me to live in fear.
    I still don’t much like the fierce streaks of lightning, but the sound of thunder always brings back memories of my daddy’s strong arms holding me close.

    • Reply
      May 10, 2021 at 6:17 am

      That’s a lovely memory. What a wonderful Dad

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    May 6, 2021 at 11:52 am

    Mama and all her five sisters were terrified of storms. Mama would tell of a terrible tornado strike from her childhood that did much destruction and people were killed. I imagine that made them all frightened.

    I am generally not afraid unless there are warnings but we had a bad tornado here in Clarksville, TN that destroyed the downtown area. I think around 1999 or so. We were outside the stricken area but lost power and there was a peculiar light and a totally eerie feeling the next morning–before we learned of the destruction. It was so still that we could hear our neighbor’s wind chimes and I’ve never really enjoyed them since–it was really creepy.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    May 6, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Mt grandmother was also afraid of lightning, I remember her yelling out the door, +You young’uns git that dog off the porch. Dogs draw lightnin’. “

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 11:31 am

    Oh, my! The memories your article have triggered! I’m from Columbus, Georgia, originally, but now live in WV. The storms were mighty fierce down home, and my mother and daddy disagreed on “what to do” when one came upon us. He loved lightening and would stand on the front porch and enjoy the light show and smell the fresh smell of rain. My mother on the other hand, would gather me up and insist we go sit quietly on the bed with all windows shut (you can imagine the 90+ ++++humid Georgia summers with no breeze). We had to sit there and not talk or move, were not allowed to have a pet on the bed because “animals drew lightening,” and pray for it to end. Unfortunately, we would have a “lightening” storm very frequently. My mother would have a cow when daddy would ask me to join him on the porch to watch! I am afraid of storms, but not to the degree my mother was. I admit I do either sit in a recliner, fully clothed (shoes included), and wait out a storm if it happens before bedtime. I’ll share what may be a funny story to some, but one of sheer panic on my part. I was picking up our two young children from school one afternoon. They were four and six. All of a sudden a violent storm broke loose! Ben, our youngest had fallen asleep in a bucket seat in back, but our daughter, Brooke Ann, was awake in the other seat. The sheets of rain were blinding, and the cracks of lightening made me jump while driving! I pulled over to a large store parking lot and sat there with the radio blasting, windshield wipers full throttle, eyes closed, humming loudly, praying, and telling Brooke Ann “not to worry!” Ben didn’t even wake up until it was about over! I get teased about that day now that they are grown adults.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 6, 2021 at 11:31 am

    You know I had to look up the word equinoctial. I had never heard or read the word that I could remember. I reasoned that it had to do with the equinox but wasn’t sure. “happening at or near the time of an equinox” is the dictionary definition.
    This goes to show that Grandpa Truett was an educated man. He knew more than me at least, which ain’t saying much. It also shows how stupid it is to stereotype Appalachian people as illiterate. Our ancestors knew how to read and write. They had no TVs and no telephones so reading and writing was their way of communicating. From my observation the present generation can’t or don’t read or write except on a screen smaller than my hand. And they write with their thumb’s. My son, who’s 28, when ask to read a document written the 1800’s said “I can’t read it!” “Why not?” “I can’t read cursive.” My son is also afraid of electrical storms.
    I’m not afraid of storms but I do respect their power. One time, years ago, I was mowing in the back yard when it came up a storm. There was a little thunder and lightening but not close. I was rushing to get done before the rain came. Suddenly I hear a loud crack behind me that it almost knocked me down. I turned around and saw a pine tree back in the woods that was aflame. As I run for the house I’m thinking “Do I want the storm to come this way and risk being struck by lightening or do I want it to move away and be stuck with a forest fire?” I was lucky! The storm calmed down and a drenching rain ensued which extinguished the fire.
    The pine tree died. Underneath it was a persimmon which grew to fill its place in the canopy. Every year in the Fall the top of that persimmon turns a fire red before any other leaves even start to turn. Is that a reminder to me of how that could have me instead of that pine tree?

  • Reply
    Sallie the apple doll lady
    May 6, 2021 at 11:28 am

    I was raised with those rules, too, except never heard about flushing. I’m not necessarily afraid but very respectful after I had a close call. It was in summer during my college days when I tried to shower before a late afternoon storm hit. I was standing in our tiny bathroom drying off when a bolt of lightning came through the window and hit the exposed pipes under the sink right beside me. It made a ball of bright light about the size of a grapefruit on that pipe. I grabbed my clothes and ran out. My grandmother and I watched as it happened 3-4 more times with balls of light coming from that pipe. I was just glad I wasn’t touching the sink. That was too close for me. Why would I not respect storms with lightning after that?

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    May 6, 2021 at 10:38 am

    My mother was also afraid of storms as was her mother. I can remember when a storm was beginning – no matter what we were doing, we had to stop, be quiet and sit down together. As a children my sister and I were also afraid. As I got older, my fear seem to lessened – but my sister was always afraid. The last few years of her life she lived on a lake. The storms seemed to be much worse there. She would get her purse and head for the basement. I often wondered what she had in that purse. We should respect storms as they are God’s work. He gives us storms, and beautiful sunshine. Love reading your wonderful stories and visiting with you on you tube. You are truly a blessing to me!

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 10:02 am

    My mother followed Grannie’s rules, except the potty, and I follow them too. I respect lighting, and my husband made sure televisions, computers, etc., all had a surge protector and were grounded. Many years ago, we did lose a television to a lighting strike. I am not afraid of storms unless I am down south and hear the city’s tornado siren go off. Then I head for the basement as I have seen the results of a tornado taking out a whole stretch of main street town in Smithville, MS.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 9:25 am

    My dad was struck by lightening while talking on the phone. He survived and then was knocked off his bed when lightening came though his bedroom window and struck the bed. He survived that one too! I have seen lightening travel down barbed wire fencing and come through the window while I was washing dishes. I’ll do whatever Granny says to keep that stuff at bay! Thanks for sharing, I love your blog and you tube channel!

  • Reply
    Margie G
    May 6, 2021 at 9:15 am

    We too had these storms in southern WV so my scientific guess (swag for those in the know) is they went up and down these mountains. My power went out after I watched the rain move across the valleys and hit a transformer up the street. It was a marvelous explosion! I have 2 bulbs that provide light for up to 6 hours and they worked pleasantly. I’d advise everybody to get a few for safety reasons. I gave 15$ for two at the super center. In Ecuador I remember a washout occurring every day and within minutes, the dust would kick up again and the humidity would curl your hair. Lol My husbands mother was ironing when he was a toddler with the windows open and lightning struck coming through her front door and laying its streak plumb out the back door. She too was scared to death of lightning. Be careful and by all means do get circuit surge protectors for your tv and other expensive devices. Thank God our beloved WILSON MATRIARCH is just fine!!!! Much love and many blessings for the best garden you ever grew this year!!!! PS it’s cool as can be this morning—- brrrrr!!!!

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 8:55 am

    Granny sounds just like my mom when it comes to storms. She experienced a bad storm, probably a tornado, when she first got married and was home alone. She never got over the fear of storms and passed that fear on to her kids. Lightning struck a huge tree in my yard last summer. It took all this time to finally die even with the split from top to bottom. That same storm took out my TV and computer. I’m following all of Granny’s rules on this one.

  • Reply
    Mary Anne Johnson
    May 6, 2021 at 8:53 am

    My mother was struck by lightning when she was 9 years old. Was unconscious for several hours, and recovered. She was deathluly afraid of storms and watched the weather reports with a keen eye. If one was about to arriveshe would take the same precautions your Granny does. In addition, she would take your 4 into a closet (with chairs to sit on) and we stayed there until the storm passed. I Iam not afraid of storms no1, but careful. My sister is just afraid as my mother was.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    May 6, 2021 at 8:45 am

    Electrical storms were something I liked while growing up but they scare me a little bit now. I have more respect for lighting after being shocked one time.
    I may have told this before, seems like I did, but anyways a friend told me this story. He told me it came up a bad thunder storm an a bolt of lighting came through his living room window, went through the floor, and killed a chicken underneath the house.
    Never heard equinoctial, not sure if I can even pronounce it

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    May 6, 2021 at 8:43 am

    My parents always made us get out of the shower or tub if a storm came up while we were bathing or showering, and my dad always went around the house and unplugged everything. We also had to get off the phone and I do remember a few times when lightning was nearby hearing it crackle on the phone before I hung up.

  • Reply
    roy humphreys
    May 6, 2021 at 8:43 am

    Grannies this side of the pond used ro turn mirrors around so they didn’t attract ltghtening

  • Reply
    Carolyn Rains
    May 6, 2021 at 8:19 am

    We had the same storms in NE Alabama. Thunder was a continuous roar for many times.
    At one time my son , that lives close, texted me
    “The dog was asleep and jumped straight up and fell asleep again. I responded: “will, I jumped too,” and my daughter, next door said, “Well, I jumped and screamed”
    It was a fierce storm⚡️
    We had 4” rain

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 6, 2021 at 8:16 am

    Your post reminds me of Mark Twain’s story about the lightening rod salesman. So the story goes, Twain got exasperated at the salesman coming to the door with question after question, “What about …” and told him just to put them up wherever. He mounted his whole supply and when there was a thunderstorm he had a light show people would come from miles around to see.

    But being near a lightening strike is no joke. We used to live in a lightening hot spot. Once I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window when lightening hit a tree about 100′ away. All I saw was a blinding flash and I dropped down below the sink. Later, after we had moved but were back doing some final work, we discovered that a 14-inch diameter poplar less than 20′ from the back of the house had been exploded about 12′ or so up and splinters were stabbed through the siding. Had we been there and in bed that strike would have been less than 30′ from our heads.

    All of which raises the question, anybody ever see ball lightening? I never have but I think I would like to though the stories are that it is spooky stuff.

    • Reply
      aw griff
      May 6, 2021 at 10:34 am

      My wife and I were coming from my parents house and as I had to make a left turn we were both looking to the right for on coming traffic when this ball of light came down a steep hill. If memory serves me well it seems it was bigger than a basketball, although I read it’s not supposed to get that big. It traveled a few feet off the ground for maybe a 100 yards and there was no thunder when it vanished.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 6, 2021 at 8:15 am

    When I was a child I was afraid of storms. I was actually the only one in my family who was, neither my sister or my parents were afraid. When I was grown I tried to figure out why I was the only one afraid and the conclusion was…our Mexican housekeeper was afraid of storms and she took care of me when my parents worked. She was the source of my fear.
    When I was grown and had a child, the Deer Hunter, I realized that if I didn’t get over my fear of storms he was likely to be afraid also. So I set about getting over that fear of storms and in the mean time I stayed away from him when it was storming. It took me a little while but I got over the fear.
    I looked back on it with amazement that I could get over it for him!

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    May 6, 2021 at 8:13 am

    When I was very young and living on my Grandfather Davis’s farm in LaFollette, Tennessee we had some gran mal storms coming right up through the Tennessee Valley. From the top of the hill, leading from the church and down into his farm, there was only a dirt road. It would often storm so hard that it would wash “boulders” and other debris down the hill and into the pond, causing us to head for the cellar and to shelter among the canned stuff and newly-dug potatoes. Good, but scary days for all of us!

  • Reply
    May 6, 2021 at 8:11 am

    I have heard all of Granny’s rules. Another rule was to unplug everything that you could or at least turn it off such as the tv. My mother along with her family lived through a tornado that came within 100-150 yards of her home before turning and hitting her aunt’s home about a quarter of a mile away killing everyone. This was on May 5 1933, she was 6 years old.. Only a few years ago this tornado was ranked in the top 5 worst tornadoes in SC. She along with her parents
    were terrified of a thunderstorm. They would get in their car during a bad storm.

    Anyone remember Jerry Clower calling these storms hurrinadoes a cross between a hurricane and a tornado.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    May 6, 2021 at 7:25 am

    Some of her rules make sense. A woman in my town died when lightening hit something connedted to her phone when I was a kid. Of course there were phone lines coming into the house by lines attached to poles. I myself got a really bad shock closing a window. And last no showers for me either. Water does attract lightening, not sure about in the house but why take chances

  • Reply
    Steve Cox
    May 6, 2021 at 7:22 am

    Have been raised in the lighting capitol of the United States (the Tampa Bay area) all but one of Granny’s precautions we are reminded of every year. The only one I have not heard before is flushing the potty. Our afternoon thunder storms can produce 10s of thousand strokes in just a few hours. The past few days here in Brasstown have reminded men of those Florida summer storm.

  • Reply
    Mr. Leslie Lucas
    May 6, 2021 at 6:41 am

    I think grandpa had old fashioned common sense. I get up and dressed,find the flashlight during a bad storm. The minutes lost getting your clothes on could mean the difference of having a house or a pile of ashes if one of them energizer bunnies hits
    You. Love your column from central, Pa.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    May 6, 2021 at 6:33 am

    I was raised with all of Granny’s rules and still follow them today. I also have made sure everything electrical has a surge protector and large items like the tv is grounded.

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