I started this blog post nearly two months ago now.. but it is interesting so I'm going to finish it up and post it anyway. Since this storm that I disucuss took place there have been a couple much worse tornadoes this year so this one seems pretty small on that scale, however it is the only tornado I've ever been in the middle of so it made quite the impression and frankly scared the bejeezus (apparently not a word!) out of me. Begin post:
As I attempt to 'settle down' from a night of thesis work and prepare my brain for sleeping I thought I would try to recount for you the story of us traveling to our vacation destination (hence calling it day0). Our destination was Myrtle Beach SC. and after some deliberation decided that it was best for us to drive.
We set out after a few delays at 8:30pm on Friday night. Our plan was to drive as far as we could and then get a hotel. Thanks to my pregnancy I now get motion sick even in the front passenger seat so I drove the first leg to avoid having to medicate for as long as possible. That first leg went longer than I had anticipated and ended around 1:30. Sean didn't sleep as much as he had hoped up to that point but he took over and we both agreed not to drive any later than 3. Of course Colin picked this portion of the leg to start to fuss so I didn't get as much sleep in as I hoped either. At 3 we pulled off the exit and I went in to try to get a room... no such luck, this hotel like every other one anywhere near 95 from DC as far south as Wilson NC (as far as we looked) had no vacancy, I know this because I called nearly every single one google listed. When I realized I was calling hotels less than 30minutes from Sean's aunts house we decided to throw in the towel and just go there. Sean's brother and his wife had arrived there earlier that day to visit before joining us in Myrtle Beach. While calling relatives at 5am to say 'hi we've been driving all night and have no where to go, can we sleep at your house for a few hrs' is not exactly ideal, they handled it with grace and welcome I'm not sure I could muster at 7am (let alone 5am) on my best day! We knew that there was a storm system coming the next day and figured being in Apex, NC at his aunts house was better than being in the awkward state of 'too-early to check in but no where else to go' if we drove straight through.
So Sean and I each got a couple hrs of sleep, (and yes she was able to house us and the girls, on top of already housing Chris and Oana, amazing!) alternating after Colin was awake and full of energy having actually slept pretty well in the car. We all just hung out watching the news coverage of the storm as it became clear that this system was more than a hail storm. Sometime around 2 Sean's Uncle made the prediction that the storm system was most definitely headed our way and we would be right in the path. At this point, despite the news I'm still thinking that the worst that will happen is that the power will go out... little did I realize that just before 4pm we would all be cowering in closets with the understanding that we were directly in the path of a tornado, or one of a half dozen. I have to say I was very surprised by all of our reactions to this situation. Sean was calm cool and collected, he was completely unphased by the fact that we were hiding in a closet from a tornado. I think this is because he must have had some a priori understanding of tornadoes in North Carolina, so while I was picturing the scene from the movie Tornado where they strap themselves to a pipe and end up levitating over it with the strength of the wind, he was picturing something more like siding blowing off a the house. He told me later that category 5 tornadoes (like the one in the movie) don't happen in North Carolina...thanks for sharing that important piece of information AFTER the fact love. I was in a panic for sure, I was in planning out every contingency I could think of, making Sean rapidly get dressed (he was in gym shorts and a t-shirt, not appropriate if we ended up stranded outdoors for any length of time) and putting shoes on everyone. Of course having Colin with us I was also remembering the countess stories I had heard about babies being ripped from their parents arms and found much further away...I also had my jacket on despite the fact that it was about 85 degrees inside the closet and had decided if things got bad I would zip Colin into it... In retrospect, I'm not sure I could have fit Colin and my bump in that non-maternity jacket and zipped it but it eased my mind at the time.
I was listening to the local radio station on my phone and was getting all sorts of information about just where the tornado was but since none of us were familiar with the area it didn't help.. although this is probably a good thing, because as we drove away later the road they refereed to was three turns out of the driveway. Being in the closet we saw nothing and heard less (not only was the radio on but the other half of the people in the house called from the other closet they were in and were on speaker phone). Sean's Uncle came probably 10 minutes later to give us the all clear and I remember smelling burnt wood. It wasn't long before we heard a fire truck come down the street and half the crew in the house went to check it out. Since it was still raining, I didn't immediately go out, and stayed with Colin who was for the most part unphased, he was more annoyed about being stuck in the closet than anything.
I should note that, a few weeks later he started showing signs of being very nervous about rain (since we kept underplaying the storm just as a bad 'rain' storm). He kept saying things like "mama I think its going to rain we need to go inside now" and getting very panicky if we didn't immediate go into the house (even when it clearly wasn't about to rain.) I actually took him outside in the rain recently just to show him that it isn't a big deal if it is just raining.
Once I did go outside... this is what I saw:
Nothing was actually on fire, but I think the smell of trees broken by a tornado must but similar to the smell of them burning. The fire department was only called because some trees hit a neighbors house but no one was home when people tried to check on them, I guess the person was afraid of a gas leak or fire or other problem inside the house...
We eventually packed up and left an hour or two later, secure that the worst was over. Many of the street lights in town were not working as large parts of the area were without power. As we drove down one particular highway (maybe route 80 but I don't trust my memory this far removed) we came across the path of what was clearly a larger tornado than what had it us. There was a clearly defined path of downed trees, a flattened barn and an overturned 18-wheeler. I was driving and following another vehicle so getting out to take pictures wasn't an option, but it was something to see for sure.
The rest of the vacation was less 'exciting' and for me was even rather boring since I worked on my thesis the entire time. Apparently there is a southern version of Panera Bread called Atlanta bread where I spent most days (foods not as good if you are wondering). I do have a few pictures to post still but unfortunately not many were taken since I wasn't around and Sean had his hands full with Colin. A couple mornings I ran around taking pictures of Colin for 15 minutes before heading out so I will try to get them up soon.