Monday, May 26, 2008

Severe storms just missed us

It was a dark and stormy night, or evening I should say, here in Waterloo, Iowa. Well, for those in northeast Iowa who live close to us it was, anyway.

At least two major tornadoes in our area took lives and caused a lot of damage yesterday, and some severe thunderstorms added to the drama.

From our perspective, it was all very weird... even somewhat eery. We could hear the warning sirens. We had our radio and TV on, and they were telling us to take cover immediately. We could see a huge DARK RED area on the radar (severe weather) just millimeters to the north of us (on the TV screen) and also southwest of us. In reality the south part of the severe weather system was about 4 miles north of us, and extended 20+ miles to the north. A 1/2 mile wide tornado was tearing across the land just out of our sight. However, right where we were at the sky was only somewhat overcast - it was actually mostly clear - and it was only a tad bit breezy. Again, from our perspective it was kind of surreal. If not for the radar on TV, we would have thought they were crazy to be telling us that all of this was actually happening.

But the sad part is that just 30 to 60 minutes prior to all of this, a larger tornado had ripped through the south part of a small town - Parkersburg, Iowa (1.1 square miles, population approx. 1,800) - that is about 30 miles west of us, and it destroyed 1/3 of the town. I'm not sure of the death toll, due to varying reports, but the highest number I heard was that there were four fatalities in Parkersburg.

I found out this morning that a guy I graduated with was living in Parkersburg. He and his family were able to get to the basement on time, and only suffered nicks and bruises, but their house was destroyed. They are going to be staying with his parents in another town for a week, but after that they're not sure what they're going to do - because his parents just sold their house and bought a house in Parkersburg that they were planning on moving into next week - and it was also destroyed in the tornado.

Other surrounding towns were also affected. We drove by lots of uprooted trees in Cedar Falls, a city that borders our city. An RV dealership had lots of damage. We drove by it today and saw RV's that were flipped upsidedown and smashed into each other. A woman from nearby New Hartford (another small town that also suffered much damage, and two deaths) reported that her horses had gotten loose and she was having trouble locating them.

Apparently this made national news because while we were gone today to be with friends, my brother, who lives in San Diego, called and left a message, checking to see if we were ok because he had seen reports on the news.

The calm after the storm is what's even more eery. To drive by the places that were hit hard was such an odd sight to see, when it was such a perfect day today - sunny, calm, mid to upper 70's. Some people were out grilling, some people were boarding up what was left of their property.


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  2. Glad to hear it missed you and you are OK. Our family was hit by a tornado during what they called the super outbreak back in April of 74. It was weird to see the destruction; how the tornado destroyed one home and left another standing. Our home had considerable damage, but was essentially in tact. The home directly on our south side was virtually undamaged, but homes farther south were. The home on our north side was leveled as were the ones behind us and across the street. None of the homes were more than 50 feet apart. The tornado was a mile wide at figure that one out.

  3. Tornadoes are quite a phenomenon. To leave some houses completely in tact, and completely destroy nearby houses... that's quite an interesting thing. Sometimes it's as if they have a mind of their own.

  4. When I first heard and saw the report on the news, I immediately thought about you. Thanks for giving us this report.

    You've had some really rough weather this year. You had all of that snow and now this. I hope there will be peace in the skies over Iowa for a long time.

    I'm really glad you and your family are okay. I wouldn't want anything to happen to my little brother.


  5. Thanks, sis, for your thoughts and hopes for us. I've now heard from my brother on the west coast and my sister on the east coast. ;) I haven't heard from my other two sisters (one of whom of course lives in your state) but I'm assuming they've touched base with "home base" (mom and dad).

    Yeah it's been an interesting year for weather. We had six straight months in which we had snow and ice (November through April). We also had some flooding problems in our area recently, and now the stormy season is upon us! But overall our family has not had it too bad compared to a lot of people, so for that I'm thankful.

  6. I was going to write another blog post but decided to decline, and instead just write a comment here. Yesterday I "accidentally" went to one of the small towns that was badly affected by the tornadoes. My work route was changed because I had to go back to one of the towns to drop something off, and so I took some back country roads to get to another town that is about an hour south of where I was. The town of New Hartford was inbetween. As I drove south towards N.H. I suddenly came across a house that had been torn apart. Then as I got closer, I saw many vehicles alongside the road, and a bunch of houses that had been completely leveled. I got to the last mile stretch of highway before town, and they had it blocked off. (I needed to go through town to continue down the highway). I had to take a road to the east quite a few miles. And that road was pretty bad itself. For about 1/2 to 1 mile, all the houses were leveled and there was debris all over the place, including some places on the road. This is almost two days after the storm. Clothes were up in trees. Other trees were uprooted. All but five headstones in a cemetery had been overturned. Fires were still being put out.

    I had never seen such a sight in my life.