Friday, June 25, 2010

S is for Severe

I was down in Des Moines for a couple days for work enjoying beautiful weather, when I could escape the over-air conditioned meeting space. I hopped in the car around 6:30 pm tonight to return home and begin my two weeks of vacation.

It was one of those brilliant blue sunny evenings in the long days of summer. But wait, is that a cloud bank to the north? Looks slightly suspicious but awfully far away. No worries.

An hour into my drive north it began to look ominous. At 7:41 pm I had confirmation in the form of a text message from my oldest son, Arthur.

"All hell has broke loose"

"Where are you?" I texted back. (Yes, observant reader - texting and driving. Very bad habit. Definitely unsafe. Don't know if it's illegal in Iowa . . .) "Like tornado s##t? Or thunderstorms?" I continued.

"Wanamakers, like some of the heaviest rain and wind i have ever seen." he texted back.

I started flipping around the radio to try and pick up local weather when I tripped across the nasty Severe Weather Noise broadcast when there's a warning. It sounded like a Minnesota station, even though I was almost to Mason City, just south of Albert Lea, Minnesota, on I35. They were talking about tornadoes on the ground near Waldorf and heading for Freeborn County.

My GPS doesn't do counties and panning out didn't reveal Waldorf, so I kept driving. And it kept looking worse. And I TEXTED again to Dale this time asking him where is Freeborn County.

"Albert lee" was his disappointing response.

"S##t" I texted back.

I was driving right into it. So I stayed tuned to the two guys on a country station in Austin, Minnesota, near my in-laws farm, and payed close attention to their truly excellent storm-tracking. I pulled off in Mason City and enjoyed a late supper and reading in the midst of three busloads of teenagers from Chaska, Minnesota, on their first food stop while heading for a church camp in Colorado. I kept waiting for the rain to start, and the sun kept shining as it set, and the big nasty looking cloud kept sliding kind of east-ish . . . . so I hopped back in the car and tuned my trusty weather trackers back in.

They were very impressed with the lightning that was dancing around Austin and warned those of us near Norwood that the nasty PURPLE eye of the storm was passing over Norwood. "TAKE SHELTER, NOW," they urged.

Where the hell is Norwood, I wondered. . . .

Ummm, it's slightly east of I35 between Mason City and Albert Lea.

My car, even with traction control engaged, was pushed onto the shoulder in a combined hydroplane, straight-line wind moment that set my heart racing and my teeth clenched as tightly as my hands were gripping the steering wheel. They warned that hail would follow. I flipped on my flashers and slowed to 30 MPH looking for an overpass under which I could take refuge.

Upon reaching home safely after 11 pm (90 minutes of severe weather delays) and telling my exciting story, my godson reprimanded me for taking refuge under an overpass.

Those aren't safe. The winds get messed up and magnified and more deaths happen as a result, he claimed, with a fair amount of authority.

So I did what we Clark/Skovs do. I looked it up.

FYI - hiding under an overpass or bridge during hail is recommended by several internet sites including State Farm, my insurance company. But Luke is right about avoiding them in tornadoes as they can magnify the wind. So in the dark when you can't see a tornado but you can detect hail, you get to make a choice and hope for the best.

Tonight, I chose wisely.


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