When I opened the back door to take the food out to them, Timmy saw me and approached the door, but the other two remained sitting on the chair, staring out at the rain. The rainfall was very noisy, so they probably didn't hear the door open, but when it closed they looked around, having been startled, and suddenly freaked out. Both of them took off into the rain. Timmy saw them run and apparently caught their panic, so she took off after them, vanishing into the liquid darkness. It was the last thing I'd have expected. The former scardy cat had in fact come into the house earlier, and snooped around for several minutes before consenting to go back outdoors, and Timmy has so little fear of me that she routinely tries to trip me when I am walking.
It would not have surprised me to have Tabby panic, but for the other two to dash off into a storm simply because I'd surprised them was very strange. I called them, and made sure the sound of the food falling into the bowl was as loud as I could make it— which meant that quite a few bits of it bounced out of the bowls— but they wouldn't come back until several minutes after I went back indoors. I haven't been out since, so I don't know how they will react when they see me again, but my experience with cat panic has been that it takes them a while to get over a fright. If they become more avoidant for a while, at least I'll be able to walk across the yard without the danger of being tripped.
I'm glad the tunderstorm didn't knock out the electircity. I have six packages of lasagna and several packages of peas in the freezer, not to mention a few gallons of ice cream and some fish sticks. I can't afford to lose that stuff.
Now lets see if it takes as long to post this entry as it took to log in. I could be here the rest of the night.