A loud boom shook residents of Hoover, Alabama out of their beds early Friday morning, sending terrified families running into the streets. There they were greeted by a scene straight out of "Armageddon" — scorched earth, vaporized worms, and a lawn suddenly turned to blacktop.
Scientists and civil defense authorities quickly determined the most likely cause — a small meteorite that had blasted its way through the Earth's atmosphere before disintegrating above the lawn. "Lucky no one was standing where the meteorite exploded," said FEMA spokesperson, Shirley U. Jest. "They'd have lost their hair and eyebrows for sure. Here — have a trailer."
This isn't the first time meteors have taken aim on Sweet Home Alabama. In November 1954, Ann Hodges of Sylacauga, Alabama was sleeping on her sofa when a 8 lb. meteorite smashed through her roof, bounced off a console radio, and hit her on the hip. This remains the only documented case of a meteor actually hitting a person. (Sarah Palin claims she's been struck twice — once in Russia and once on the moon, Pandora, but she was alone both times.)
Indeed, the hit song, "Stars Fell on Alabama" is based on a famous meteor shower that occurred over Alabama on November 12 and 13, 1833. According to state meteorologist Jimmy Buffett, an estimated 30,000 meteors an hour sizzled through the sky, incinerating Zoysia, Bermuda, and centipede lawns across the state.
Hoover homeowner T. Grimm Smurdley, whose lawn took the latest meteor hit, wonders if his grass will recover from the conflagration. "I seen lots of burned-up lawns when I was growing up, though not so much anymore," he comments. "I figure it's due to global warming. Them meteors just have a harder time making through our hot atmosphere."
Is It Good to Burn Lawns?
People and meteors have been burning winter lawns in Alabama for generations. Many people think this is a good thing. Here is a list of the supposed benefits:
+ Burning off thatch
+ Burning weed seeds
+ Burning overwintering insects
+ Just seeing something burn
None of these reasons really makes sense, when you weigh them against the possibility that you may burn down your house.
The Grump knows first-hand. Back in his younger, wilder days, he decided to burn off the dormant St. Augustine lawn in his back yard for all of the reasons above. As soon as he lit up the lawn, a puff of wind turned the gentle flame into a roaring wall of wildfire, like you'd see on the African savannah, racing across the yard towards the house. It sounded like a tornado. Grumpy didn't even have a water hose ready. That could have made for an interesting conversation with the insurance agent as he surveyed my house's charred shell.
Agent: "So you started the fire yourself and it accidentally burned down the house?"
Grumpy: "That's correct. I'm covered for this, right?"
Good news, Mr. Smurdley. The fire moved so quickly across your lawn that it only burned off the dead stuff and left unharmed the live grass underneath. It will green up shortly. But readers need to take seriously the following warning from FEMA's Ms. Jest.
"To avoid being being struck by a meteor, never sleep near a console radio."