Almost a year ago, we moved here from Arizona. After U-Haul totally dicked us over the day before our departure, we packed everything we could into our car, the rest into storage, and hit the road. Despite being crammed into a car with two young children, it was a somewhat pleasant drive. We tried to stop and see the cool roadside attractions– You know, large balls of twine, cars planted vertically in the ground, dead bodies in New Mexico culverts…
AND THEN WE HIT TEXAS.
It was an overcast early afternoon when we stopped for lunch in Amarillo. (We had steak. What else do you eat in Texas?) Our goal was to hit Joplin, MO that night as I’d reserved a hotel room there. So we get back on the road after lunch, and having blocked our intestines with massive quantities of red meat, I thought we’d definitely make it since bathroom stops were no longer necessary.
So we were tooling along I-40, about 30 minutes east of Amarillo when the clouds suddenly darkened, dropped, and started moving. Within two minutes, not one second more, the weather had gone from overcast and stagnant to death and destruction. A funnel cloud dropped down about 100 feet to the left of the driver-side door. My eyes widened, I gripped the steering wheel and sped up to 95mph. A second funnel cloud appeared about 100 feet to the right of the passenger-side door. It started raining, not cats and dogs but buffalo and camels. I could now see about 10 feet in front of the car. I slowed down but questioned– Do I slow down? Do we suffer death by tornado or death by car accident? Choices, choices.
After exiting the highway to attempt to find an overpass to take shelter under, we started getting hit with golf-ball-sized hail. This woke the kids up from their afternoon nap (Because yes, I had been cursing in fear but I was doing so in a whisper so as not to wake the kids. Better they die while asleep.) and my son, four at the time, looked out the window and asked, completely calm and collected, “Hey, is that a tormato? Are we going to die?”
Having found no overpass to die beneath, I got back on I-40 headed back west. I saw flashing lights through the rain/hail; We were being directed to a tornado shelter about two miles away. When we got to it, having outrun the worst of the weather, we dashed inside and waited since it was headed our way. The calm was eery. No one but us was panicked. Actually, maybe no one but me.
Nothing passed directly over the tornado shelter. It passed about a mile south. We talked to a trucker who nearly had his trailer (well, his trailer, truck, and him) sucked into it. We were able to go outside and snap a picture as it disintegrated across the highway. I wondered how close it came to the tail end of our car as I had barreled down the highway twenty minutes earlier.
The shelter staff fed my kids Snickers bars. They were sweet ladies but I’d like to avoid seeing them again. We went on our merry way.
AND THEN WE HIT OKLAHOMA. Repeat paragraphs four through six, but also add that our hotel in Joplin was booked out to storm chasers despite us having a reservation and being forced by weather and fear to stop in a wide spot in the road in Who Knows Where, OK and camp for the night while we watched news reports of F4 tornados surrounding us and everyone else within three states.
I know that whole ordeal wasn’t so bad. We survived without a scratch (the same cannot be said for the car, though) and all that really happened was that I got seriously scared.
But now I can’t see a low-hanging cloud without internally freaking out. I have tornadic post-traumatic stress disorder. Tornado season is starting up and even though they are pretty rare where I live, it happens. My son just learned tornado safety and drills in his class. The weather channel today issued tornado warning for the southeast. That’s not near me. But the anxiety has set in a little. I’ll be glued to the weather channel now through September. I know it’s ridiculous. I want to punch me in the head.
Do you have any weird or irrational fears/anxieties?