As the day progressed, we checked the weather several times. The warnings became more urgent, and we were placed under a tornado watch.
Around 3 PM, we saw (on the radar) a large line of strong storms approaching from the west. They appeared to be moving quite rapidly, and multiplying in intensity. We prepared the best we could. Matthew and I put the chickens in their coop, and Father put the car in the shed to protect it from possible hail. It began to become very windy, though that’s not at all unusual when a storm is approaching.
For a while, we thought that maybe it was going to miss us. (It’s happened before.) I practiced my guitar, with my computer showing the latest radar. Around 4:30, I noticed a large red splotch on the radar, moving straight for Chickasha. In fact, it was almost here. Bach Preludes forgotten, I went outside with the video camera to see what I could see. It was very unimpressive. Just a bunch of gray sky, with thunder rumbles all around, and an occasional visible flash of lightning. Nothing particularly exciting or out of the ordinary. I was a bit disappointed, and went back inside. But I couldn’t concentrate on practicing, so instead I just hung around and looked up the latest weather updates. The Weather Channel was posting Twitter updates on their website, so I was reading about the tornados that were about to hit Oklahoma City.
I came downstairs again, and just sat around in my parents’ bedroom, discussing the weather and what was going on. We wondered if the storm was indeed going to hit us. Everything seemed normal at the moment. Suddenly Mother looked out the window, and asked, “Is that a funnel cloud?” I looked out the window as well and announced, “Yes, that would be a funnel cloud.” My whole body immediately felt an adrenalin rush. I ran out of the room, grabbed the video camera (which was conveniently sitting on the table, fully charged and with plenty of tape) and turned around and raced out the door. I was in such a hurry that the door didn’t open quite fast enough, and it got in the way of my foot. I managed not to fall, and someone apparently closed the door behind me. My entire consciousness was focused on getting to see that funnel cloud.
I raced to the fence on the west side of our property. There it was – a tornado dropping out of the cloud! The view here was obstructed by the hill in the cow pasture next to us, so I ran a little farther south to see better. There was no doubt about it now – this was a full-size tornado, and it was moving right towards us!
I was standing there, filming, hardly believing what my eyes were telling me. All the discussions we had had about what we would do in case of a tornado flashed through my mind. What would I really do, now that I see a tornado coming? I wasn’t quite sure. Go to a storm shelter? That was at least 5 minutes’ run away. Go and hide in the house? Definitely not. Stand out and watch it? That might be pretty dangerous. Then I realized I had no choice. I had to make sure my family knew what was going on. Inside the house, they might not be aware of just how serious this thing was. I also realized that if our house was really going to be destroyed, then not only did we need to get ourselves out, but I really wanted to save my external backup hard drive with all our photos and videos from the last 15 years. If we lost that, there would be nothing we could do to replace it. Just about everything else could be replaced.
The next two minutes merged into a blur. Apparently my family already knew the tornado was coming, and they were going to the truck to drive to our neighbor’s house (to use their storm shelter). I ran upstairs, set my iMac face-down on the carpet as a desperate measure of preservation, grabbed the precious hard drive, and scrambled down the stairs, out the door, and into the truck.
We drove slowly down the driveway, not knowing if we would ever see our house again. However, by the time we reached the end of the driveway, it was becoming quite apparent that the tornado was going to go north of us. By this time it was a massive vortex, flinging up a huge cloud of dust and dirt.
We live nearly on the top of a ridge. The local people tell us that tornados generally follow the ridge. There’s a small valley, of sorts, and then a few miles away, another ridge. As things turned out, the tornado followed the other ridge.
We were so relieved.
It later went on to Blanchard and Newcastle, and rendered about 50 homes uninhabitable. We are so thankful that God spared us from destruction. But oh, my heart goes out to those whose homes were destroyed…
I had long wanted to see a tornado in daylight. I also wanted to see one that didn’t destroy our home and property. This met both of those criteria. And thankfully I had my video camera to capture the moment. (Good thing it was fully charged and ready to go!)
I’ve seen many videos of tornados forming. I’ve heard lots of stories where people say, It happened so fast. But I never realized just how fast it really happens! When Mother saw the funnel cloud, it was smaller than a finger held at arms’ length. Less than a minute later, it was on the ground, kicking up debris and dirt, and destroying whatever was in its path. And it appeared to be moving very, very fast.
We had basically no solid plan in case of a tornado. We thought, if it ever happens, we can use the Chabot’s storm shelter. And, in this case, we probably could have. But what if we hadn’t seen it coming? It would have been too late to do anything. As it was, God spared us from what could have been something very terrible.
Someday we will have to face our Creator in a judgment. And if we haven’t prepared our hearts to meet Him, it will be too late.
Too late. Forever. No second chances.
Our second chances are now. This is the time given us to get ready.
Don’t waste it.