Friday, June 06, 2008

"Storm of the Century" not even Storm of the Month

When I woke up yesterday morning I had no idea of the horror I would be facing. It turned out to be very fortunate that I turned on the TV instead of the radio because NPR Morning Edition was already over. Had I not done that I never would have known that the Storm of the Century was barreling towards me.

The TV weatherman was breathlessly warning us about three inch hail swirling through multiple tornadoes and "tornado-strength shear winds." "Wow," I thought, "when is all of this coming? Umm, tonight?" The storm was barely forming on the radar and they were already warning us about the impending destruction. I've lived in the midwest my entire life and don't remember anything quite like that, it must be serious.

All day people were talking about the storm coming and we followed its progress across the midwest. The weathermen warned of small storm cells colliding like pinballs and creating super tornadoes. One line of thunderstorms was catching up with a second line of thunderstorms and would eventually merge with it to create a mega storm. This was some serious shit!

I had plans to travel to KC for a friend's birthday but maybe that was foolish. Should I stay here to defend the few possessions that didn't blow away from the inevitable looting that would take place after a storm of this magnitude? Mmmm, probably not. We decided to press on hoping that we could outrun the storm heading east, bunker down in the city while it passes over, and return to our small town to see if it had survived. On the drive we exchanged rumors and information about the storm. This was it. This was the big one.

At the club all of the TV's were tuned to the local news channels (well, it was supposed to be an NBA game but all they showed was the weathermen anyway). People danced in front of bigscreen images of radar maps showing a line of storms stretching from Texas to Nebraska. I guess if this really was it we may as well go out hanging out in Angel's Rock Bar, right? I looked at the map and realized that it was hitting Lawrence as I watched. Had everyone taken cover in time? Was my apartment still going to be there? Would it even be possible for us to drive back? I would know in a few hours.

After some time I decided to see how bad the storm was pounding the city. I stepped out and saw....rain. Yep, pretty much just an ordinary, not even that windy, thunderstorm. "Hmm, I have to say this Storm of the Century isn't quite living up to its billing," I thought.

It turns out that this Storm of the Century was pretty much a giant dud. Despite all the hype on CNN about how these were the exact conditions that produced some of the deadliest tornadoes of all-time and despite Wichita State canceling classes and despite predictions of softball-size hail smashing into my skull we got pretty much jackshit. A run-of-the-mill June thunderstorm that produced a few tornadoes and blew some leaves off the trees and that was it. How disappointing.

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