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wicked weather

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I've hinted several times over the last few weeks about our wild ride from Colorado.
Unfortunately, I wasn't exaggerating.
We were literally dodging tornadoes and hailstones.
Well, okay. We didn't see an actual tornado...but the warnings were EVERYWHERE.
Hmmm...where to begin.
I guess it's best to start at the beginning.
We took Shad to the hospital that Wednesday morning so we could spend a little extra time with him and see Pam before we left.
We pulled out of the hospital parking lot around 11 a.m. not realizing what was in front of us.

We were in for a wild ride.
The kids quickly fell asleep - road trips do that to them...thank goodness.
(How can they possibly get any sleep like that?! :)
I plugged Shad's mp3 into the stereo system and sang my way through western Nebraska, blissfully unaware of the storms building in front of us.
By the time we reached North Platte I knew we were going to be in trouble. I had enough storm spotter training during my TV days to know the clouds I was looking at meant business.
When I flipped on the radio the weather guy confirmed my fears.
We were in a tornado watch.
It was too late to dip south to Kansas. They were in the watch too.

And if I went back to Colorado it would mean another day off of work.
'I can handle this,' I thought. 'I've been in worse. We'll be fine.'
The warnings and hailstones started flying in Lexington.
For the next six hours I drove like a crazy woman...stopping only long enough to go to the bathroom, get gas and go through the drive thru.

So much for my mom's fear of me getting bored and tired.
Storms bubbled up in front of us and followed us the entire way.
As the radio rattled off one warning after another, Alek looked the counties and cities up on our Rand McNally and compared it to where we were. (Amazing geography and map reading lesson in the middle of chaos by the way.) The warnings would literally pop up as soon as we crossed into a new county.
Would we never get away from these things?
At one point I drove under the darkest, lowest, meanest looking shelf cloud I have ever seen. I don't know what possessed me, except there was absolutely nowhere to take shelter and I knew if we stayed put we would be in more trouble than if I could manage to get in front of it.
Okay...here's where I come off sounding like some kind of freak at best and at worst a really bad mother!
I have to admit - the adrenaline rush was kind of cool.
I loved storm chasing when I was in TV. I lived for the spring and the promise of a good chase. There was nothing better.

But when Alek came along I put away my video camera and parked the live truck.
I used to say I quit chasing because you can't chase storms with four kids in a mini-van.
So much for that excuse. ;>)
Here I was doing exactly that...
Except the storms were chasing me.
Kind of ironic, huh?

I don't think the kids saw the humor.
Alek thought it was cool until the clouds started swirling.
Anya and Nick kept nervously asking if this cloud or that one was a tornado...
And Maddie?
Well, Maddie slept through most of it. She was tuckered out and riding in the car has a hypnotic effect on her. The rest of the time she just talked to herself.
Aaaah...ignorance is bliss.
We were able to finally get ahead of the storm around Lincoln and quickly turned south toward home.
We had made it.
We were safe.
Or so we thought.
The very next night on our way home from Alek's baseball game we got caught in one of the worst storms I had ever been through.
And I've been through some storms.
It was as close as I can imagine as to what a tornado is really like.
We pulled into a little town about 10 miles from home just as the rain started.
As we puttered through the middle of town, Alek asked, 'Mom, what is that noise?'
I rolled down my window and hear tornado sirens.
Great. Now what?
It was late and every business in this town of 1200 was closed.
Nothing was open.
Not. A. Thing.
So I made a decision.
I pulled into the nearest car wash.
As I turned on the radio to hear the latest, I suddenly had a thought.
'This is NOT the best place to be hanging out right now.'
As the wind started picking up I had visions of the video from the overpass in southern Kansas. You know...this one where the TV crew pulled under an overpass and a small F0 twister caught up with them.
While the video was taken by one of my colleagues in Wichita and we were all incredibly jealous of the footage, one of the first things they taught us in storm chaser training was to NEVER do anything like that.
Well, here I am, in a car wash bay...which is essentially a TUNNEL!
And aren't overpasses pretty much just little tunnels?!!
And I have my four kids with me.
I'm winning all kinds of 'Mother of the Year Awards' this week!
The next 20 minutes were the most harrowing I have spent as a mom.
The wind hit with force. It had to have been 70 to 80 mile an hour straight line winds. The power went out, throwning everything into darkness...
The van rocked back and forth in the wind...
And my kids cried.
I quickly ordered the kids to grab their jackets (still in the car from the trip to Colorado) and throw them over their heads. Alek found his and one for Maddie, but in the panic, Anya and Nick couldn't find theirs, so I climbed back through the mom mobile, told everyone to put their heads down and then leaned across Anya and Nick to protect them from any flying glass.
For the next 15 minutes the kids cried while I alternated between trying to comfort them and praying like I had never prayed before. (I wish now I would have thought to pray out loud...what a teachable moment that would have been.)
Finally the wind subsided, the sirens stopped and the rain let up.
The worst was over.
We headed home.
All along the way we talked about the storm and how God had taken care of us.
We arrived home to a dark house and since the kids were still scared and I wasn't sure what else the weather would bring, we camped in the middle of the living room floor complete with sleeping bags, our Coleman lantern and a battery powered weather radio.
I slept like a baby.
For the next few nights things were pretty quiet, but then a week ago tonight we got the ultimate wake-up call.
The tornado sirens went off at midnight.
I've never actually heard our town's siren go off before.
Boy is it loud!
It must be right across the street!
Despite living in tornado alley, we have always managed to skirt true catastrophe. And somehow we managed again that night.

We went ahead and woke up the kids and brought them down to the living room, ready to head to the basement at any second. Thankfully the storm weakened before reaching our town, but the same storm did produce tornadoes that ripped through Chapman, Manhattan and Soldier, Kan., killing two people, tearing through neighborhoods and severely damaging our alma matter, Kansas State.
The last few days were quiet.
But now tonight we're in a severe thunderstorm watch again.
No tornadoes yet, but plenty of severe thunderstorm warnings.
Ya know, severe weather season for this part of the U.S. was supposed to wrap up a few days ago.
I think someone forgot to tell Mother Nature.

9 salty messages:

rachel June 19, 2008 at 11:14 PM  

oh my goodness!!!

i have not been keeping up with my blog reading as usual... i can't believe what you all went through!!

so glad your prayers were answered and you are all safe and well...


Christine June 20, 2008 at 12:39 AM  

You are very blessed to have never been caught in the middle of terrible weather. Did your kids wake up with sore necks? :)

Rachael June 20, 2008 at 6:49 AM  

Oh, I'm glad you're all safe. Big storms freak me out. We got caught in one awhile back and it was not the kind of excitement I like to have on a Sunday afternoon drive!

Tina in CT June 20, 2008 at 7:23 AM  

I've got goosebumps reading it! My suggestion when you were stranded in the town would have been to knock on a friendly door and seek shelter with a family in their house. I'd have picked a nice looking house that had a swing set so you would know that it was a family.

Is your Coleman lantern a battery one?

The tornado/storms this spring have been non-stop it seems in the Midwest. I don't remember hearing as much on the TV news in other years. Add in the flooding and that section of our country sure is being slammed.

I'm so glad that you all were OK and did not have any injury or damage to your house/cars.

How is Pam doing?

jessy June 20, 2008 at 2:25 PM  

The weather ya'll have been having is crazy! So glad everyone came through unscathed. You may have a few extra grey hairs, though.
On a side note, can I just say that I'm totally impressed with the cleanliness factor of your van. It puts mine to shame. Particularly on long road trips!

Kathy & Matt June 20, 2008 at 4:55 PM  

You've been through a lot. Glad everyone is ok.

We've had a lot of bad weather here in MN too. However, I don't feel too bad compared to the folks in my hometown,...Cedar Rapids, IA. They have been through the worst recently.

Mother Nature is not to be reckoned with!

Christina June 20, 2008 at 10:37 PM  

Good gravy, with all the stress you've had in your life lately you must be running on pure adrenaline! Thank goodness you managed to dodge all those storms (for the most part). I hope the storm season is over for your area very soon!

MamaPoRuski June 21, 2008 at 12:45 AM  

Sometimes there are just not enough words to describe the shock and horror on a face while reading a blog...thanks, today was a first for me...so glad God kept you all to write about it!

Lindy June 23, 2008 at 1:03 PM  

Wow, what a story! I am back to reading your blog after a little vacation, and trying to figure out what's wrong with my computer. I can't get internet on it right now, so I'm reading this at work (on my lunch break). :-)

During the time you were battling with the weather, there was also lots of severe weather during my travels through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Ohio, where I ultimately ended up, had better weather. Both on the way out and on the way back, the bad weather was chasing me or I was chasing it. When it caught up with me or I caught up with it, I had to stop and wait, because I was flying my dinky little airplane!! It was quite a trip.

I'm glad to finally catch up with you a little bit - and I need to post some more blogs, too. I loved the vacation pics - the kids are just TOO adorable!

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