The Day the Storm Hit – A True Story

Many people have said I should write about what happened while it is fresh in my head. So, here it is. This is not polished – just stream of consciousness writing. I have a novel to edit or I would have spent more time. Anyway, this is what happened.

June 23, 2015 6:26 PM my town was hit with a flash storm unlike anything most of us had seen before. I grew up on the Jersey shore and have lived through many hurricanes, but nothing like this.

Everything ended up in the air

Everything ended up in the air

I listened to the news on the way home from work, and they said there may be severe thunderstorms. No biggie. They always say that when it’s really hot outside.

When I got home around 6:00 PM, my husband was on the treadmill and my kids were all playing video games.  Hubbs said he was going to cook up some fish for us and a DiGiorno pizza for the kids as soon as he was done.

This beautiful old tree in Philadelphia was twisted up like a pretzel.

This beautiful old tree in Philadelphia was twisted up like a pretzel.

Since no one was screaming for food, I figured I’d jump in the pool and do a few laps. It was still 90 or so degrees outside and sunny when I dove in. It was 6:10.

Our neighbors tree in our yard

Our neighbors tree in our yard

About fifteen laps into my workout, dark, billowing clouds appeared over my neighbor’s trees. A rumble sounded far in the distance. Yes, I should have gotten out of the pool, but I picked up the pace for a few more laps. Time: about 6:15.

Power lines left on the ground because there just were not enough people or equipment to fix them quickly

Power lines left on the ground because there just were not enough people or equipment to fix them quickly

When I came up for air, I saw our large, free-floating umbrella swinging madly, and our two tiki umbrellas flopping unhappily in the sudden breeze. I jumped out of the pool and stuck my head in the house, calling my oldest son to help crank down the large umbrella while I took down the two tiki umbrellas. Time: 6:20

I really wanted to get some exercise in, so I jumped back in the pool. (Yeah, I’m an idiot). I hadn’t gotten a full lap in when my younger kids came running out of the house. “We just lost power!”

More power lines laying on the ground

More power lines laying on the ground

Huh? The storm wasn’t even here yet.

I got out of the pool and wrapped my towel around me. Brrrrr. When did it get so cold? Time: 6:25. I turned around and looked at the sky. The huge, black clouds were spinning, and all the visible sky in the center was green… like shamrock-shake minty green… and I’m NOT KIDDING.

Massive tree that used to stand around the corner from my house

Massive tree that used to stand around the corner from my house

My husband stepped out of the house. “Look at the sky,” I said.

He didn’t have time to comment.

Imagine the air in the distance suddenly turning white – kind of like one of those clear shower curtains that you can’t quite see through – And then having that shower curtain flung at you at a gazillion miles per hour.

My 9 year old stumbled to keep on his feet. My eleven year old screamed “Whoa, what the heck?”

Neighbors. Just about every other house lost a tree
Neighbors. Just about every other house lost a tree

 

“Get in the house!” I screamed to them as flecks of needle-like rain hit my face.

I turned and found my husband fumbling with a tarp. “We need to cover the fire pit!” he said. (Stupid, I know… but the thought of a tornado coming at us didn’t really cross either of our minds.) I helped him, because I knew it would be faster than arguing.

Luckily we were under the covered porch when raindrops the size of melted golf balls started falling. Big, white drops throttling the roof. You know how kids draw rain … huge teardrops in the sky?  Well that’s what it looked like, but the drops were solid white.

Streetlight snapped. This car has no rear window. Not sure if it fell on the car

Streetlight snapped. This car has no rear window. Not sure if it fell on the car

“We need to grab the cushions!” my husband said.

“Well, we’re not going out in that, they’re already soaked.”

Trees just bend over and snapped. This is a common sight if they were not ripped out at the roots

Trees just bend over and snapped. This is a common sight if they were not ripped out at the roots

That’s when something from my neighbor’s yard set sail, came over our six foot fence, and flew past our house. I can’t tell you what it was. I don’t rightly remember. My oldest son said, “Is this a tornado?”

I stiffened, staring at the green sky. Something cracked, and part of the tree behind our house snapped. Took flight, and went right through our stockade fence. That was enough to make the three of us run for the back door.

Yes, I was swimming here minutes before.

Yes, I was swimming here minutes before.

My two little ones crouched in the kitchen. “Is it a tornado?” Littlest asked.

I realized they were both standing in front of a glass slider door. “Get in the basement!”

Monstrous tree in the next town. The root ball was far over the top of my car

Monstrous tree in the next town. The root ball was far over the top of my car

“Get under the basement stairs!” My oldest shouted. (I was surprised he remembered our emergency plan.) But he remained at our side.

The little ones got to the bottom of the stairs and ran back up, more terrified of the dark and the noise. I herded them into the room where the windows were protected some by the covered porch.

Littlest posing to show how big these things are

Littlest posing to show how big these things are

My husband opened the back door as our patio furniture took flight. “What are you doing?” I screamed.

“I can’t just stand here and watch all our stuff blow away!”

A PVC recliner picked up and spun in the air. A metal table with a closed umbrella flew toward the fence, snapping the wooden umbrella in two.

The sky and air turned red after wards. Very scary

The sky and air turned red after wards. Very scary

It took several rounds of me and my oldest son telling my husband nothing out there is worth dying for before he backed away.

We stood, helpless as everything outside took flight, and nature peeled the beautiful tree behind our house like a banana.

Within about 20 minutes (I’ve heard others say it was a half hour – I didn’t look at a clock) the wind stopped.

We went outside to survey the damage. The sky was – strange.

These are the best pictures, but they don't really show the strange color

These are the best pictures, but they don’t really show the strange color

The kids asked why the ground was red. I rubbed my eyes, realizing they were right.  The brown spots in the grass were an odd red color. I held out my arms and realized my skin seemed a little red, too.  The air took on this “redness”. It looked a lot like television shows that try to show radiation and take the pictures through a slightly red-tinted lens.  Very weird.

Neighbor. Luckily the tree fell the other way

Neighbor. Luckily the tree fell the other way

The winds started up again, and back in we went. I’ve been through several hurricanes, and I knew when the eye passes over, the backlash of the rest of the storm could be worse… but I had no idea what it would be like for a tornado… and at that point we were fairly convinced that is what happened.

It was even a struggle to walk in places. (We were careful not to walk under uprooted trees after this)

It was even a struggle to walk in places. (We were careful not to walk under uprooted trees after this)

The second wave was nowhere near as bad as the first, and then the sun came out. People started leaving their houses and walking the neighborhood in a daze.

Still not positive of what happened, and hearing the emergency sirens all over the place, I kept my family inside for the night. We slept in the basement (partly because it was cooler down there (no power for AC), and partly so we were safe, just in case)

And then the sky just cleared like nothing happened

And then the sky just cleared like nothing happened

The following morning, still without power, phones, television, internet or even cell phones… my husband got in a car to go check on his 80 year old mother. He turned left out of our neighborhood to find the road blocked by police.  He turned to go in another direction, and was stopped by police, who said there were overturned cars and fires down that road, and our town was in a state of emergency, he had to go home.

From iphone 2015 856Later in the day we got grandma back to our house (she is fine) and I took the kids to walk the neighborhood.  We had a battery radio, and all we found out was that the storm was localized, and they were trying to confirm it was a tornado.  Walking the streets, seeing huge trees on the ground, poles snapped in two, mangled trampolines 1000 feet from where they were the previous day, and power lines just laying on the ground… well, there was just no doubt in our mind what had happened, even though they gave the storm a new category type… not a tornado, something about concentrated horizontal wind shears or something like that.

This is a line of 12 cranes back to back lifting the power lines (pictured above) off the ground.

This is a line of 12 cranes back to back lifting the power lines (pictured above) off the ground. In some cases, they drove a new pole into the ground next to broken ones and just moved on. Special thanks to these people working crazy hours to get our power back on.

When you look out over a forest and see an entire line of trees clipped off at the top like someone sliced them with a knife, you have to wonder how something like this could happen.

These are the kinds of things you see in movies or television news. They happen “somewhere else” not in your own backyard.

We were out of power from about 6:30 PM Tuesday night until 7:00 (ish) Friday.  Cell phone service came back Saturday. Cable came back Saturday afternoon. Internet came back Saturday night, and house phones came back Sunday.

From iphone 2015 857Our damage was minimal. We were extremely lucky. But I will never take the power of nature for granted again, and I will never look at a storm cloud the same.

ABC News video coverage and additional pictures of areas hit even worse: http://6abc.com/uncategorized/widespread-damage-reported-after-tuesday-storms/801925/

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13 responses to “The Day the Storm Hit – A True Story

  1. Wow, that’s an adventure I’ll happily pass on if possible! Something like this is a good reminder that Nature really does have the upper hand. I’m glad you and your family are safe and sound!

  2. Had a couple of these horizontal wind shear storms pass through Michigan in the last decade or so. The damage is phenomenal since it’s much wider and less localized. So much worse than any tornado ever is. You can see entire swaths of trees wiped out.

  3. We were ‘in’ a tornado once when I lived in Topeka KS. I saw it come down from the hill where my elementary school was (blasted it to pieces), then it spun down the huge field between the school and our military housing complex where we lived. It then jumped and touched down about a mile a way if I remember, and did some more damage. I’ll never forget the green color or the sound. It does stay with you forever. in fact, whenever I see the sky turn that color green, I herd everyone inside. I’m so glad you and your family are ok. That could have been much, much worse.

  4. Whew. Once you’ve seen that green sky, you never forget and keep an eye to the sky. Glad you are OK.

  5. Unless we’re regularly surrounded by extreme weather events, it’s like we can’t process what’s happening, and they immobilise us, mentally and/or physically.

    Or we try and go out in them – next time (if there is a next time) hit hubs over the head with something firm yet padded and drag him back to safety.

    Wind shear events are like horizontal tornadoes, and are becoming more and more common. We do live in interesting times! 🙂
    Extra glad you’re all OK.

  6. Terrifying! Thank you for sharing this. My heart was racing just reading your account. And since I know you’ll appreciate this, I was also thinking…wow, great material for her next book! Thank goodness all were safe.

  7. Having been in the Wadena Tornado of 2010, which at the time they said was a category 5, I watched it out my front window, until the debris started flying that is, and I was pulled out of the trance-like state I was in. There is really nothing like it! Storms of that magnitude are scary! But it is the sound I will never forget. Some people like to say it is like a train, but I disagree, it is more like a train crossed with a helicopter, doing this whirring noise that is almost deafening! I have been in two very bad tornadoes and to this day I am terrified of storms! The first was when I was teen, and it jumped the trailer house I was babysitting in! Dropping a tree literally on top of us, the branches were brushing my head when I stood!