For most of the year Paraguay sits under a hot blue sky. There is though a chance of rain at any time of year. Often these come in the form of heavy summer downpours or cold blasts of winter. Occasionally the storms are something altogether more powerful.

Thankfully these large and potentially damaging storms only occur once or twice a year. They are also often fairly localized in their ferocity.

In addition as they are always electrical storms they are more likely in summer than winter. Several very hot days to build up the moisture and energy in the atmosphere seem to be requied.

The first sign that such a storm may be on the way is a general build up of thunder clouds. If there is enough energy lightning will begin to be produced. Initially this is silent and does not head down to the ground but instead discharges from cloud to cloud. I have seen on a number of occasions a storm begin with one flashing cloud which gradually draws others around it.

This pre storm phase may last for several hours as the clouds slowly build. Sometimes the continual silent lightning will drain away the energy and the clouds will eventually just fade away but on others the power of the storm will snowball.

As the storm builds so does the strength of the electrical discharges and the lightning now reaches the ground accompanied by loud cracks of thunder. The volume of the thunder and the brightness of the lightning both grow as the storm approaches.

By now thick black will have formed. Sometimes covering the whole sky and on others forming a sharp dividing line between air masses. Even if the whole sky is covered it will be darkest where the storm is approaching from.

With the arrival of the storm front come winds. These rush from high to low pressure as the storm displaces clearer air. The more intense the storm the greater the winds which can reach damaging hurricane force on the leading edge of the storm.

Trees bend, leaves and twigs are blown great distances. Some gusts can be strong enough to fell trees or damage houses and it is far from unusual for the electric to go off. The strongest winds are at the front of the storm system and may last for 15 or even 30 minutes.

Now if it hasn’t already the rain itself will begin. Large heavy drops fall more and more rapidly and with ever growing force. Just a few seconds outdoors is enough to soak a person to the skin. Also if driven on by the wind the rain may for a while be blown almost horizontal. This water quickly finds any unsealed gaps around doors and window frames though which it can enter houses.

Rain of this ferocity may last half an hour or may last several hours. Either way it is enough to soon overflow drains and turn roads into rivers. There is a reason why all the curbs are so high in Paraguay. Also the many dirt tracks which make up the majority of the road network are quickly turned into muddy ditches.

Around my house the water is able to run away as the house sits towards the top of a hillside. Not before however the garden has turned into a shallow lake.

I have observed over the years that the intensity of the winds brought by thunder storms does depend upon the direction from which they arrive. Whilst those coming from the north or east may be strong enough to drive rain horizontal it is only those that arrive from the south or west that have enough force to damage property.

Twice over the years southerly storms have been powerful enough to rip the tin roof off of my kitchen. The first time the whole roof plus all the associated timbers along with the terrace roof flew right over the house, landing several metres in front of it. Then on second as the terrace was no longer covered the kitchen roof flew past the side of the house decapitating a large cactus on the way.

When I reroofed the kitchen for a third time I put it back on lower and at a much more shallow angle. Additionally there is now the absolute minimum of roofing over hanging the walls so as to give any blasts of wind deflected up the walls as little as possible to get underneath. Hopefully it will this time stay put.

However violent and damaging these storms are the land soon dries up. Within a couple of days under the hot sun and a blue sky it can be easy to forget the storm had ever occurred.