Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Texas Tornado

I finally got around to posting this footage of a funnel cloud that I shot eight years ago when we lived in Texas.

At the time, the kids thought it was a flying "tomato" and they were fairly unimpressed with this one. That's because it wasn't the first one that flew over our Texas home. The first one had occurred a couple of years before. I was sitting with the kids in the family room and look out the window and saw what I thought was an unusual number of buzzards circling a kill. I got up and went outside to get a better look and discovered it wasn't buzzards, but shingles and other debris whirling around inside a funnel. It was maybe a mile away and considerably bigger than the one in the video above. The kids joined me outside and we watched until Courtland, who was six at the time and considerably wiser than me, said, "Shouldn't we be hiding or something?"

He was right. Where we lived in Texas, the ground was so hard that few people had basements. The houses were built on slabs and the tornado protocol was to find a center room and hunker down there. We did that, while also donning baseball and hockey helmets for extra protection. A few minutes after we found shelter, we heard what sounded more like a passing helicopter than a train, but you could definitely hear it going over us. It lasted maybe two minutes, and once it passed, the skies turned yellow and the hail started falling, followed by brief but heavy rains.

We were lucky. The funnel hopped over our house, then touched down about a mile away on a shopping center, tearing the roof off a grocery store, blowing out windows of a video store and worst of all, destroying my favorite liquor store. It hopped again to a subdivision about two miles from there, where it did considerable damage to some homes.

All that paled compared to what it had done before it reached us. About 25 miles to the north, it had ravaged the town of Jarrell, shearing homes from their foundations and killing 27 people.

Tornadoes are the types of things that are hard to look away from, but very easy to respect once you've experienced the deadly force they bring.

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