Thursday, June 2, 2011

Just a Little Simple Twist of Fate...

Fujita Scale No. One through Five

The dog barked incessantly for over a minute. I had just put Pierre, our three year old cocker spaniel, in the garage to dry off after having taken a little swim in our back paddock. It was a warm, muggy, but breezy evening in late May and I was surfing the channels for some baseball on television. Pierre rarely barks at nothing, but when I got up to see who might be driving up for a visit, I didn't see anything. So, I walked around the house looking out every window available to give the dog the benefit of the doubt, but saw nothing. No visitors, no kids walking passed our property to visit our neighbor's pool, no mailman, or garbage men, no squirrels, herons, rabbits, turtles or toads could be seen to validate the barking.

"Pierre, I said in an aggravated tone as I walked outside to get a better look, "Shut up!"

I did a perfunctory perusal around the house and when I arrived at the garage door, I stopped to notice some clouds slowly billowing from the south that seemed possibly able to provide some relief from the forty-plus day drought we had been suffering. The weathermen on the tube said our chances of any precip was less than ten percent and they repeated it not more than a few minutes before Pierre starting barking. I stood out there for about five minutes watching as a "squall line" appeared. It had been windy all day, but it was a very humid breeze that now was becoming cooler. Off in the distance, I could hear what seemed to be rain hitting the trees and drenching the parched ground. Living out in the country in rural Louisiana is a treat for the senses in so many ways, but out here, you can hear things that you wouldn't hear in the city. I was amazed when I first encountered Canadian geese formation flying over our house. Not only could you hear their honking, you could actually hear the beating of their large wings as they cruised by. Amazing!

With this storm, there was no lightning or thunder, which is unusual this time of year, just the sound of the rain growing louder. A darker gray cloud came into view moving diagonally across the light gray squall line. Because the clouds bringing the rain was coming directly from the south toward me, it was hard to calculate its speed, but the clouds that came across from the southwest moving northeast was moving at a pretty good clip. Slowly, as big, wet raindrops hit me and the ground, I decided to quickly run over to the small metal shed that houses my lawn tractor and garden tools, to close the doors, but before I got there, I was intercepted by a large gust of wind growing ever more powerful. With the raindrops hitting me ever so fiercely, I decided to head for the safety and shelter of the back kitchen door.

Behind the now closed and locked door, I saw our colorful garden pin wheel turn white as it seem to struggle to stay earthbound. The tall pine trees swayed in all directions as the rains now came hard and heavy and for a brief ten seconds or so, small branches and leaves started flying in, what I'd calculate as easily, a sixty-plus mile per hour gust.

As quickly as it all came, it was gone. The rain lasted for another couple of minutes, but the wind was now non-existent. My staring out the kitchen windows that over looks our back paddock was shattered by a weather alert on the television.

"A tornado was sighted a few miles west of the town of Bush off of Highway 40 and Lee Road," said the reporter as a picture of a gray funnel was shown. Apparently, an eyewitness took a shot of the almost indistinguishable twister with his cellphone and sent it to the TV station.

"Geez, I told my wife, that can't be more than few miles from here!"

Later that evening, we saw the destruction and heard the frightening eyewitness accounts of the aerial attack. Just about everyone said that it happened so quickly, they had little time to react. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt, but the 150 yard wide funnel landed around Five Lakes Road, which is actually about twenty miles from where we live. It destroyed a trailer park, a Cub Scout campground and damaged about 30 or 40 homes within a ten or twelve mile radius.

Naturally, incredible stories abound. A seventy year old woman grabbed her husband and grandson and told them," Hold on, we're going for a ride" as they took shelter in the bathroom. "Thirty seconds, and it took everything," she said. A female Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix was returned to the happy owners after being found a few hundred yards from what was their home. The dog was found huddled in her carrying case where she retreated to at the height of the storm. The move probably saved her life.

My silly little story was, I had divulged a day earlier on Facebook in a lighthearted discussion about dreams, that ever since I was a child, I have had tornadoes in my dreams. In dreams, I am always running or hiding from them or trying to save someone from total destruction. A few caring friends helped me decipher my dreams or recommended a few websites for my night time affliction. It was all good natured fun, but...

The next day, investigators reported the twister to be an EF-3 with winds up to 140 mph. Whoa!

Copyright/Ben Bensen III/ 2011

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