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Filed under: Preparation & Readiness, Safety on the Road


October 28, 2010 by · 3 Comments 


It’s Scary – VERY SCARY!

Most of us don’t think it can happen to us, but deep down inside we know how easily it can.

Late Wednesday afternoon a band of severe thunderstorms along with at least three confirmed tornados came roaring through our community, one hitting my son’s home and destroying his camper.

My son’s name is Randy, same as mine.  It is easy to get confused on who is who, so we always called him Randolph.  Of course, that name is too complex, so he shortened it to Randy many years ago.

Less than an hour before the tornado hit, Randy, his wife and I were watching a middle school football game some 20 miles from home.  My grandson is on the team.  Chris had just made a tackle when the rain started pelting down.  The game was called and we all rushed to our cars for shelter.

The plan was for me to drop Randy off at his house so that he could prepare for an out-of-town trip while Jen picked up Chris at the base school when he got off of the football team’s bus.  We had no idea of the power lurking in the approaching storm cell.

On the way back home I had the radio in the car on.  It was turned down, but when the warning alert tone came on I turned up the volume.  The National Weather Service had just issued a tornado warning for our area.  They were telling everyone to seek immediate shelter.   This is difficult to accomplish on a crowded Interstate Highway during the going-home traffic peak.  We pressed on through the traffic.  Ironically, the sky in front of us was blue.  But off to the west it was black.

By the time we got to Randy’s house all of the sky was coal black, lightning was all around us – bright blue and yellow bolts moving rapidly from between the dark clouds and the ground.  I could hear sirens from emergency vehicles in the distance.

Even after the cell passed, the sky remained filled with coal black clouds.

I dropped him at the entrance to his driveway and headed to the end of the street.  The wind began to pick up and rain started to pelt the side of my car’s windows.  I headed for my own home, some 8 miles away, thinking that this was going to be a bad storm.

The strange lightning continued.  It was all around me coming faster than I ever remember seeing at any other time in my life.  The wind had picked up.  WATCH OUT! – a tree just fell onto the road right in front of me.  I moved to the left and was able to get around it.

When I reached my driveway my cell phone started ringing.  I answered.  It was my son.  His voice was shaky.

“A tornado just came through my backyard.  It picked my camper up and threw it into my neighbor’s yard.  It is lying on its side.  My fence is flat on the ground.  I saw the funnel and ran into the downstairs bathroom.  I could feel the house moving around me – I thought it was going to come down on me.”

The 7,500 pound camper flipped like a cardboard box in a summer breeze.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I knew it wasn’t a joke, but down inside I hoped it was.

I looked up at the western sky.  I could see the cell stretching out just yards from our home.  I went into the basement and took shelter in a back room.

The outer apex of the tornado only lasted as few seconds as it passed by our property.  Those seconds seemed like an eternity.  Once the wind subsided I went outside.  Everything was still standing, but leaves and tree limbs littered the ground.

My wife, Nancy, was at her Mother’s nursing home on the other side of town.  Randy’s wife, Jen, and Chris were actually driving into the storm a few miles away.  Granddaughter Katie was at their Church – not too far from the Nursing home where Nancy was.  Trooper, Randy’s big black Lab, must have sensed what was happening – he had hidden himself in the garage.  Miraculously, everyone would end up safe.

I grabbed Oscar, tossed him into the truck and headed back to my son’s house.  I could see the path of the tornado along the side of the roadway.  It had selectively uprooted trees like a huge logging machine.

Fire, rescue and police were everywhere blocking some roads as they parked their vehicles in the traffic lanes.  Still having red emergency lights on my truck from my EMS days, I turned them on so that I could move around them without interruption.

When I arrived at my son’s house I could see the damage.  His camper was on its side, the heavily anchored play set made of 6” x 8” lumber planted 3 feet in the ground was tossed into the center of his back yard.  Fences were down, debris was everywhere.  Shingles, siding and fascia were blown off of houses, trees uprooted, porches missing or damaged.  Patio or deck furniture was scattered everywhere – some impaled into the sides of bushes far from their original place of use.   But, none of the houses in his neighborhood were destroyed and no one was reported to be hurt or missing.

You can replace a camper.  You cannot replace a loved one.  They are all OK, so are we.  We thank God for looking over us during this disaster.

Now for the clean-up.  It is going to take a considerable amount of time to put things back as they were.

I began my volunteer disaster response and Rescue work in 1969 in the aftermath of hurricane Camile.  There have been many disaster response events in the passing 31 years.  This one ranks in the top ten.



Summing up the events for a Family Camping blog :

  • Never assume it can’t happen to you.
  • Be as well prepared as possible with emergency supplies and provisions.
  • Take IMMEDIATE shelter if a tornado or severe storm warning is given.
  • And, no matter how much we love our campers, leave one immediately and head for a sturdy shelter if high winds are foretasted or present.


3 Responses to “HIT BY A TORNADO!!”
  1. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Professor Randy,
    God bless you… We are so glad you and yours were not injured… and Oscar, the wunderdog is
    okay!!! How is your m-i-l after the fact??

    I have tried to track this storm ever since day #1…a friend is in Monroe,MI on the #2 nuclear plant
    overhaul and I can’t get a word from him…

    We are just glad yall are okay!!!

    Joyce & butterbean

  2. Gerald Beeler says:

    Randy, glad to hear that all are OK. I guess that you will have lots of stories to tell at Willow Tree in NOV.


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