Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Tornado

Yesterday I started the long trek West after finishing my winternship in Chicago. I wasn't in any hurry, though. I took things at a leisurely pace, went out to breakfast with a friend, and even took some things back to a store that I knew they didn't have in Salt Lake City. I headed out of Chicago at about 10am and felt pretty good about the day until I missed two exits and accidentally took a wrong exit right after a toll booth and had to pay the toll again thirty seconds later when I got back on the road.

Other than that, though, I felt very alert and calm as I was driving...until Nebraska.

Let me just start by saying that I've never had experience driving with tornadoes unless you count those nasty fried burrito things that they sell at gas stations that I have been prone to purchase at times. If the food is called a Tornado you can't really get angry for subsequent twisting feelings you get in your stomach during the aftermath. Anyway, that's besides the point--this was freaky.

I was driving along, blaring music from my iPod, and noticed that it was starting to rain a little bit. I didn't think too much of it and then I noticed giant lightening bolts a few miles ahead of me. Still, I just kept driving and turned up my music. Then, I looked off to the left-hand side of the road and saw the most magnificent looking storm that I've ever seen in my life. Dark clouds were culminating in the prairie sky and I saw an area of bright lights in the middle of the angry storm. The picture I posted above was the closest thing I could find that resembles what I saw.

At this point, I remembered that I was in Nebraska, that tornadoes happen in Nebraska, and that I should probably be listening to the radio instead of my iPod, just in case what I was witnessing was, in fact, life threatening.

I turned on the radio and the first station I came to was transmitting a tornado warning from the national weather service. I started to freak out. Then the DJ's came back on the radio and started telling listeners that the tornado had touched down 20 miles east of Lincoln, Nebraska right along Interstate 80 and was moving 60 mph towards Omaha. I looked at the green sign I was passing on the side of the road and saw that Lincoln was 22 miles away. The tornado they were talking about was right outside my window!

On the radio they were advising people to get to a basement immediately. "If you are in a car you need to get off the road and find shelter, you are not safe in your car, these storms will pick up cars," they said. And there I was, a boy from Salt Lake City, with no idea what to do. I didn't know if I should try to drive through the storm or if I should pull over and try to wait it out. Because there were no exits nearby, I decided to drive through the storm, until I realized that there was so much rain that I couldn't see a thing, even with my wipers on the fastest setting. So, I pulled over to the side of the road just in time for it to start hailing like crazy. It was coming down like crazy, which didn't help me to calm down in my already panicked state. It was too loud to call anyone, so I decided to send Maggie a scary text message, "Please pray for me. I'm stuck in a tornado in Nebraska."

After about five minutes, the hail stopped and I started on the road again. Luckily, with the storm moving as fast as it was, I wasn't in the commotion for too long. I was driving through crazy amounts of rain for the next little bit, but after that, I was able to calm down and be thankful that I was able to make it out of that experience safely.

I had to laugh when I saw an electronic sign right after the tornado that said, "Warning! High wind advisory. Dust blowing. Low viability" Clearly, someone had misspelled "visibility" but it was funny to read about low viability after I thought I might die.

The other fun part about Nebraska was when I was pulled over for speeding just before the Wyoming border. I was surprised because I wasn't really even going that fast. I was going 84 in a 75. That's probably why he only gave me a warning, which is lucky, because I was getting ready to bat my eyelashes and tell him a sob story.


Bryce said...

Great road trip story Bob. I was nearly in a couple tornados in Chicago but I never saw the actual twister. So does this mean you're back in slc? Are you going to come back to Provo for the spring?

Bobby said...

I'm actually in Ft. Collins right now, but I should be back to Salt Lake by tomorrow afternoon. And, yes, I'll be in Provo for spring/summer. Are you staying there this year? You're not selling again are you?

Andrew and Ariel said...

Bobby, Bobby, Bobby . . . haven't you seen "Twister"? All you have to do is strap yourself to a barn door with a belt and then you can fly around the eye of the tornado and learn about it. Keep that in mind.
Glad you're safe though, and that such an experience awakened the cub schout within. Papa Neil the bear cub would be proud. So would Grizzly Tom, for that matter.

Carrie said...

Now that is a seriously freaky story! I wonder if Mag thought that text came from you as you actually swirled around inside of the tornado ;)

Glad you are safe--what an adventure!

Krista said...

holy cow I'm totally laughing right now at that last comment and your story. That is so scary. But we can laugh now right? Because I'm sick like that. I am so glad that you're safe. See you molto soon.

Krista said...

that's funny. Care and I commented at the same time.

Ruth Ann said...

don't you mean you were about to "bat your eyelashes and tell {the police office} a "bob" story"? that's what I thought. I guess to speed things along (pun intended) you could have just given him the link to this blog....next time, i guess...


Joseph said...

Bob, we saw some tornadoes on our way to Nauvoo when our family visited the church history sites, but they were miles away. Do you remember those?

The only thing scarier than a tornado is a pelvic whirlwind starting up right outside your window.