Today marks the start of the 2013 WordCount Blogathon. It’s an annual challenge to writers and bloggers to post every day for 30 days. The event ends on June 30 with a twitter wrap-up party and raffle prizes for those who manage to post to their blog despite unexpected work obligations, family responsibilities, or acts of nature.
This is my first year to participate, which I’m doing here on my newly created Travel Browsing blog. And I’ve been excited for the official start date, armed with a calendar full of pre-planned topics to write about. And then the night before the event changed my focus for this first official Blogathon post. Yep, one of those “acts of nature” made me forget everything for a while except the safety of my family.
It started when I turned on the TV after going to bed last night to check in on whether I’d be sleeping to the sounds of thunder again (which has been an almost constant this week.) What I saw caused me to call and wake up my parents at 12:30. There was a tornado warning issued for their town of Sallisaw, Oklahoma (just 35 minutes from my town in Arkansas) and a giant “super cell” storm, with a prediction of winds of 50-60 miles, aimed right at them.
With images still in our minds of the horrible tornado damage done earlier in the day in Oklahoma City (and last week in Moore, OK), my Mom and I talked by smartphone as they grabbed supplies and headed into their safe area. Their internet wasn’t working and their satellite TV had been knocked out and they don’t have a weather radio (yep, I’ll be making sure they remedy that soon!). So I relayed information to them while watching my local news.
A huge relief came when the weather man announced that “rotation has lessened” for the area. But that was short-lived as the new report showed that the storm was now heading towards me, along the I-40 corridor. So I gathered up important papers, bottled water, blankets and pillows, and the dog and his bed and put everything into my hopefully safe area – the laundry room.
Still, I wasn’t too worried at first. I was born in Kansas and have a lot of relatives all over the Midwest region. That means I’ve been through a lot of tornado watches, warnings, spottings, etc. And I’ve seen that these storms can turn on a dime, usually on a northeast pattern. I live directly east of my folks, so figured this one would go just north of me. Nope.
It’s a bit surreal to see a local weather forecaster show a map on TV with a giant red circle, signaling a super storm, directly over the words of your town. “If you’re in Van Buren, you need to take cover RIGHT NOW,” said Channel 5′s Garrett Lewis in a calm but stern voice. And then the city sirens went off.
From a local viewer via twitter: “Garrett Lewis rolled his sleeves up, which means it’s gonna be a long night…”
I grabbed my laptop and headed to the laundry room, turning on the News’ live streaming so I could hear Lewis’ play-by-play of the storm. The sound of the storm going overhead was very scary — loud, angry rain; thunder that sounded as if on the top of the roof; and wind that almost sounded like a closely passing train. Even worse, there were various twitter reports of tornadoes touching down around the area. Fortunately, those were either false or “weak rotations.”
It actually passed by pretty quickly and although the winds were fierce, there was no damage done. But the night’s activities weren’t quite over yet. A line of 3-4 more thunderstorms, one right after another, were now on the map and it was reported that “tornadoes could form rapidly from within this line.”
Long story short — we chose to sleep on the floor of the laundry room with the News still live streaming on the laptop while storms raged on. I woke up periodically from the storm noise and hard tile floor. But it was a relief each time to hear the continuing reports from Lewis, who broadcast all night.
Although several storms are still going on all over the region this morning, they’re the more typically summer-time show-offs – small but irritatingly noisy. And with all of the heavy rain (Sallisaw had 4″ overnight) there are flood warnings for several roads.
Still, I ran out for a quick walk around the house and everything looks fine, as does a fast look over the neighborhood. And I heard from my parents that they are fine, as are other relatives in the area. So I’m counting my blessings. And crossing my fingers that the forecast for sunnier skies this afternoon comes true!