Our neighbors across the street lost a tree in their front yard today when a major thunderstorm ripped through the area. It wasn’t anything close to the mile-wide tornado that swept through Joplin yesterday, but there were power outages and some damage.

Unfortunately, this comes with the territory. Just as people along major rivers have to be wary of flooding, or coastal communities keep an eye out for hurricanes, or northern states prepare for blizzards, spring has always brought severe weather here. It’s rare for a week to go by without some kind of National Weather Service watch or warning for tornadoes or thunderstorms, which deluge us with huge amounts of rain and wind for short bursts as they roll through. We’re bracing for lots of them over the next four days.

This is golden time for a TV meteorologist, a chance to show off all the cool graphics and gizmos (e.g. one of them has technology that shows where lightning has struck, not because anyone cares, but because they have it). They never want to be accused of not warning us about the impending weather apocalypse, so they jump right in and preempt programming like it was going out of style. Even when they do release the airwaves for the regular show to resume, they fill the corner of the screen with county-by-county warning maps as updates scroll by in the bottom third.

This can be annoying when you’re in a part of town unaffected by the storm. We’ve had several occasions where everything was calm outside our windows, but a torrent of wind and wetness was deluging friends who live five miles away — and vice versa. We’ve also been caught on the road as the rain poured over us with more ferocity than the power-blaster at the car wash.

When a storm like that is overhead, the sky turns an odd shade of dark grey, almost green, as the barometric pressure drops. The thunderclaps are loud enough to wake a coma victim, and when conditions are right, we’ll get hail the size of baseballs. That’s not an exaggeration. My daughter grabbed one several years ago, and it’s still in the back of our freezer.

The people who owned our home before us apparently didn’t know about the aural side of mother nature’s wrath, or they never would have had skylights installed in the master bedroom. When one of these hailstorms hits with full force, it sounds like we’re under attack. The only benefit to these meteorological menaces is that our roof got so pelted a few years ago (it had almost as many dents in it as a golf ball) that we had to get a new one, and our insurance policy covered it.

Spring is a good time to be in the roofing business in the midwest — except for the traveling roofing crews that descend, under-price the market, do a less-than-quality job, and then move on to the next storm-damaged town, leaving shoddy workmanship behind with no recourse for the unsuspecting homeowners. One of those crews tried to weasel their way onto our job, but we went with someone we knew would do it right and still be here afterwards. Tip: don’t use a roofer who doesn’t have a local address and phone number.

We’ve been fortunate thus far in that we haven’t been hit by storms as fierce as the one that hit Joplin (MO) and Reading (KS) and North Minneapolis (MN) yesterday, or the one that bashed Lambert Airport a few weeks ago, but we’ll be lucky if we get through this week without losing power again and seeing tree branches strewn everywhere. In the meantime, everyone here knows to take those tornado warning sirens seriously. But even if they aren’t blaring, when the sky starts looking dark and ominous, it’s just springtime in the midwest.