Outdoors, Visual Perspectives

Ominous Clouds #AtoZChallenge

4 May , 2019  

O-fficially O-ver

The #AtoZChallenge2019 is officially over.

Do I throw in the towel, admit “failure”? Oh, no. Nope. I’m going to finish this thing if it takes the next six months.

Ominous Clouds

In the last week and a half I’ve put over 1600 miles on my car. It’s a 2014 Honda with less than 30,000 miles and a brand new set of tires on it, so it was happy to roll. I thought I’d got over my need to brag about long, solo drives back in my twenties, but I’ll admit this was kind of fun.

The first trip was a business trip to Austin, about 300 miles, round-trip. It’s an easy drive. If the weather’s good.

Colleagues kept telling me I should leave, head home, right after lunch. But there were still a few things to accomplish, so I kept putting it off. I even joked with them about being “tornado repellant.” My dad will vouch for this – I used to try to guide tornadoes in like ground crew guides a 747 to the gate. I’d watch the skies and pray to see one. I’ve been within a mile of a bad tornado, and never laid eyes on the thing. The first time I stood outside my apartment, with my three year old daughter, and watched cloud rotation overhead, while running “tornado drills” with her, alternating between, “Oooh, look at that!” and “Go, now! Get into the downstairs tub and keep your face down!” I realized I’d wet my pants if I were close enough to a tornado to see it. I bought the movie, “Twister,” on DVD. Pop it in, when I need a “fix.” It’ll do.

I procrastinated, wanting to accomplish as much as we could while I was there in Austin. Until, finally, a manager came in and told me there were severe storms and flooding on the way, and if I stayed any longer, I might as well wait it out. That could mean staying the night, as the worst of the storm would hit “near dinner time” and the storm was heading up the same route I’d be taking home. So I grabbed my stuff, said my goodbyes, and hurried to the car. The rain started out light enough, but as the wind picked up, so did the rains.

Somehow, too, I’d turned on what I’ve taken to calling “Scary Google.” I’d turned on the option to “avoid highways.” I didn’t realize it until it was too late to backtrack. It’s not that the directions were wrong, and on a pretty day, its would have led me through a pleasant twist of scenic farm roads that shaved about half an hour off my drive time, despite being a bit farther in distance. But that day, with severe thunderstorms roaring in, bringing ominous cloud rotation and flooding, it turned into what I now call, “Scary Google.”

They mean it, here in Texas: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” But that’s not always an option. At one point, I found myself on a little road – one might charitably describe it as a “bridge” between a farm pond on my left and a drop into a creek on my right. The pond was overflowing, crossing the road, and the right was becoming a waterfall as the water overspilled the banks of the pond to rush across the road faster and faster. It wasn’t deep, but I drove slowly so as not to start hydroplaning towards the little falls and into the creek. Fortunately, the only spot with rain heavy enough to impair visibility was an access road near a highway. Not the highway I was aiming for, though. We weren’t there, yet.

I had to cross over two fairly busy highways, left turns, without lights. The rain started to pick up again, and for a few tense minutes, I did worry about visibility. Mine. The other drivers’. Finally, I was on the main road home, and for a while, it was back to being easy. I still had the feeling I was trying to outrun the coming storm, and may have outrun a few commercial truck drivers in the process.

The clouds got more interesting around Lee County. Even the shallow water on the highway was spraying wildly as we passed through it, flying outward in all directions, even vertically. It seemed odd, and I’ve driven highways in heavy rains many times. I could see the leading edge of the storm, before long. A dark line with drips of inky gray against a light, off-white expanse of sky. Off to the left, this:

I shared my location with my husband and my son, saying, “If my little dot stops moving, or the directional beam starts spinning wildly round and round, get me help!” Passing by Bryan, Texas, I felt as though, maybe, I’d gotten past the worst of the storms. As I drove into the outskirts of Houston, I saw blue sky.

Telling my husband about the drive, later, he calmly said, “They had some tornadoes about the same time, near Bryan-College Station.” I looked it up, and this was probably happening as I passed, or shortly thereafter:

Which gives you a better idea of the weather I was driving through. And this, which shows what was probably going on around the same time, just off to my left. I did not actually see a tornado, so my reputation as “tornado repellant” still holds. Sorry, Bryan, TX, that I wasn’t driving right through your town at the time.

Yesterday, I worked from home. A severe thunderstorm with cloud rotation and a funnel cloud took my usual commute, but fortunately fizzled out before it hit the office.

This isn’t even “Tornado Alley.”

My kids live there. In “Tornado Alley.” Last week, a small tornado touched down not far from them. I’m hoping they’ve inherited my “tornado repellant” gene.

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9 Responses

  1. Unishta says:

    It was scary enough reading about it. I too am mortified of bad weather and prefer staying at home rather than braving nature’s fury. what amazes me is the accuracy of weather forecasting in the US and how you can plan your journey/day by the minute as you track weather changes.

    • I’d have thought you’d get similar accuracy in forecasting, since much of it’s done with satellite data, and much of it is done with an eye towards safety in aviation.

  2. Shilpa Gupte says:

    Wow! You reminded me of the time I saw Twister in the theatre and held on tight to my seat. You definitely are tornado repellant, Holly! 😀 And, you are lucky, you know?!

    • I do know that, now! I really thought, on that drive, that my luck might not hold – that I shouldn’t have been so cocky and making jokes about it. Turns out, I have a friend who, along with his wife and their son, got picked up, spun around, and landed in a field, in their truck, by a tornado. They were fine, but really badly shaken, especially their son.

  3. I’ve never been in a tornado, but a couple of weeks ago we had the effects of a thunderstorm and are still recovering. It made me wonder how people have to keep getting their lives together after tornadoes.

    • People are amazingly resilient. I used to wonder, like you do. My mom said, “You do what you have to do. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

  4. This was a scary read. I cannot imagine how it must be to live in a place frequented by tornadoes because they are unreliable which route they might take and destroy what all which comes in their way. I am glad you reached home safely that day, the tornado fizzled out before reaching your office and your kids did not have an encounter with the tornado. I wonder why is that place named Tornado Alley? Well, I assume that place must be getting too many tornadoes but why name it that?
    Anamika Agnihotri recently posted…An evening walk in Lytham St. Annes #WordlessWednesdayMy Profile

    • The odds, even in Tornado Alley, of getting directly impacted by a tornado are fairly slim. In fact, more people probably drown on flooded roads every year. But yes – the sheer force of a tornado and its seemingly random destructiveness are scary.

    • To answer your question: https://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Atmosphere/tornado/alley.html

      “The land in the Great Plains is relatively flat, which allows cold dry polar air from Canada to meet warm moist tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s along the front between the two airmasses that most tornadoes form. Most tornadoes in the United States form in an area called “Tornado Alley”. This area includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.”

      There are a couple of maps that help to illustrate why it’s called an “alley” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_Alley

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