Riders on the Storm

Norfolk Pine Tree struck by a tornado on March 31st 2011 on the south side of my home

A better title would be, “Not Riding in the Storm.”

A conveyor belt of severe storms continues to roll across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and northwest Florida. The storms started last week. Every three days, another storm roars across the southeast. The thunderstorms have high winds, numerous lighting strikes, large hail, and are spawning tornadoes.

Hunkered down just east of Pensacola Florida on Wednesday and Thursday, I waited out one of these rounds of storms. That storm was not as bad as I feared, although the storm did last eight hours. Today I drove to Lafayette LA, about 100 miles west of New Orleans. Now the next round of severe storms is coming through this weekend. Without success, I looked for a route around the massive storm system. First I considered going towards Houston, but that route heads directly into the area of severe weather predicted for Sunday. Then I looked into driving north through Shreveport and Texarkana. This route would put me directly in the path of the storm. I didn’t know until today there is a town called Texarkana. I thought Texarkana was a term describing the region around Texas and Arkansas. I thought maybe I could get on the north side of the storm before the storm barreled east. Neither route is possible. There is the giant wall of severe weather from the Gulf Coast up to Kansas blocking my way. After checking the weather forecast in several locations, the forecast here is the least worst of all the places I checked.

Deciding to just hunker down in Lafayette LA for the weekend gave me a feeling of relief. The idea of being out on the road trying to out drive a storm was unsettling. I smiled thinking about the people who are “storm chasers”, and that I am “storm escaper”. There is possibly another storm system on the same track on its way next week. I will deal with that situation next week if the storm comes. Monday I plan to start driving northwest towards Shreveport LA, and then turn west and start the trek across northern Texas.

The situation reminds me of an old joke. “Why are tornadoes and redneck divorces similar? Someone always loses a trailer.”

Living in the Tampa/St Pete area of Florida for the last 38 years gives me a great appreciation of the danger of thunderstorms. Tampa/St Pete is the lightning capital of the world. The name of the hockey team in Tampa Bay is even the “Lighting.” The only place in the world with more lightning strikes is the west coast of Africa where the great Atlantic Hurricanes are born.

Exactly six years ago, on the last day of March, a tornado ripped through the neighborhood where I live in Pinellas County Florida. Now that is March going out like a lion. The tornado touched down behind my house, destroying several buildings, and knocking down all the power poles leading into the neighborhood. The tornado lifted off the ground for a few seconds. Then the tornado passed 10 feet south and 15 feet above my house before touching down again on the other side of my street.

The damage the surgical precision a tornado is capable of is stunning. I saw exactly where the tornado passed. The tornado shredded the branches off the Norfolk Pine on the south side of the tree starting 15 feet above the ground all the way up to 10 feet from the top of the tree. The branches on the north side of the Norfolk Pine, the side facing my house, were all still attached. So now I also have a great fear of tornadoes after seeing first hand the destruction they cause. I still have an elm tree in my back yard that is leaning towards the east. The tree was almost completely uprooted from the tornado. We managed to stake to the tree back into the ground and the tree survived. The crooked elm tree is a forever reminder of that storm.

Exactly 24 hours before the tornado struck, I had a wonderful cat named Blue Mesa put to sleep after a long struggle with kidney disease. I think this tornado whisked Blue Mesa’s spirit into the heavens. Blue Mesa was a rider on that storm.

Link below to “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors.

Riders on the Storm


Riders on the Storm — 4 Comments

  1. I did enjoy your story and remember hearing about the bad weather and glad I was not traveling. Heavy wind always scare me too but up here in the North country we have lots of snow, so heavy snow on roof scare me more. I put steel room on the house last year so now the snow just slides down..no worries. Lots of people were trying to get away from the shores and coming inland with the worry of the tornado’s. This is what my facebook page said I belong to a group call Living the RV dream. It just one of groups I belong too. But it does tell you about what happening down south. Thanks for the story.

    • Thanks Sue. This weather pattern is predicted to continue until mid April. I considered delaying the start of the trip because of the weather, but when I saw the prediction I decided to begin and try to make my way out west.

  2. Well Rob, ya almost talked me out of heading west by myself! I feel pretty safe in my block house, even though I lost a huge tree in that same tornado. It took off the cover of the fuel pumps at the station 7 blocks down the street. Never thought it would ever come down my street! But it did, and to my good fortune, it laid that tree down right across my neighbors front yard, never touched a building. Seeing what they can do to a manufactured home, I’ve sworn I’d never live in one. Yet, I want to take off on my own (and my sweet Abbey) in a “manufactured home in wheels”. Hmmmm, gonna give this some serious consideration!

    Glad you’ve decided to hunker down a couple days. These damn storms are scary! Wonder how bad they’ll be next year? Be safe my friend!

    • Yes Carol, sitting in a tin can is not where you want to be during a tornado. Amazing how a tornado can destroy something on one side of the street, and the other side is left undamaged.

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