7.02.2012

derecho

I was sitting at my desk around 4:15 Friday afternoon when my phone vibrated next to me. My mom texted me to tell me a storm was coming and to be careful driving home. We have storms all the time, so I knew it must be a big one for her to warn me.

I got up from my desk to look out the window and noticed the western sky was getting dark. It was sunny out, but there was a certain look to the clouds, that unmistakable warning that a storm is on the way. I pulled up the weather map on my phone to see this:




Um, yikes! Right? Within the next fifteen minutes, there were thirteen severe weather alerts. 13! I love the average, run of the mill thunderstorm. Love them. I love watching the sky grow darker, the clouds twist and turn, and waiting for the first raindrop and bolt of lightening. It's a thrill to me. But honest to goodness, I had this unshakeable feeling this would not be an ordinary storm. I don't know how I knew (aside from the scary radar. Eeeeek), but I just knew.

As 5:00 came closer, the skies darkened. The clouds coming from the west seemed to grow a deeper shade of grey by the minute. My mom had called and said the storm was hitting there and had completely devastated the backyard, trees were down around town, and there was no power. My office building was nearly empty. I debated staying and waiting out the storm or making a run for it and try to get home before the worst of it hit. The sun was still trying to peek through the clouds, so I took a gamble and decided to leave.

I ran to my car. I could literally see the clouds inching toward me. I pulled my car onto the interstate as fast as I could. Once I was driving I could see why my mom warned me not to drive. I wish I had taken a picture of the clouds. They were standing and stretching in the sky and as black as night. To say they were menacing or frightening would be the understatement of the century. I have never in my life seen clouds that looked like these.  It was like living an episode of Storm Chasers. I was expecting an F5 tornado to drop any second.

The storm that spanned the entire state of Ohio was slowly narrowing in on Columbus. It seemed to have picked up speed, and I knew it was going to hit any minute, and I was still far from home. As I passed the skyscrapers downtown, I made a split second decision and veered my car onto the closest off ramp. Without any care for traffic laws, I swerved past cars taking shelter under overpasses and pulled into a shopping center.

I got so nervous I started shaking uncontrollably, and my hands went completely numb. I could hardly turn the steering wheel. While waiting for a light to turn green, I remember looking up at the sky and watching the clouds swirl and rotate. There were constant streaks of lightening everywhere. I found a parking spot and ran inside the Barnes & Noble where I met the Pioneer Woman just three short months ago.  Pedestrians and shoppers ran inside to take cover. People were glued to the windows, everyone agreeing they had never seen anything like it before.

Within minutes, the wind violently tore through the parking lot, carrying shopping carts and debris with it. There were dust devils from the construction site at the OSU campus across the street. Metal poles were bending over, and a crane hundreds of feet in the air was swaying like a blade of grass. The rain was blowing horizontally, the lightening right on top of the building, and the thunder deafening. A man in the cafe area yelled "It's the second coming!", and a group of friends huddled together in fear while many kept working away on their laptops. The flickering lights finally gave way and the power went out.

The storm started to let up about thirty minutes later. The store decided to close since they had no power, so I ran to my car. The parking lot was strewn with downed trees and branches. A mass of people ran out of the movie theater to see what was going on, the traffic lights weren't working, and the sirens of emergency vehicles were louder than the thunder. It was pure chaos.

I drove past mangled, warped billboards, massive trees on top of houses, and houses and buildings on fire from lightening strikes. It looked like a scene from a disaster movie. Miraculously, our apartment never lost power. We're some of the very few in the state that still have power. We spent the evening at our friends' house sans electricity, staying up till midnight telling stories by candlelight and a flashlight hanging from the ceiling fan.

The governor and now the President have declared a state of emergency for Ohio. Hundreds of thousands of people are without power for at least another week, and temperatures have been in the upper 90s. The winds were clocked at over 80 mph near my apartment. The storm has been classified as a Super Derecho or "land hurricane," which happens to be quite rare. And let me tell you, that's exactly what it looked like.

Here are some pictures of the damage in Columbus, all from The Columbus Dispatch. All taken within several miles from where I live.


Please keep these people in your prayers. I know other states were hit just as horribly. I'm so grateful that we are safe. Even though I would never wish this destruction on anyone, this storm was an incredible thing to witness firsthand.

22 comments:

  1. WOW. that is the same storm cell that passed through illinois yesterday afternoon. it hit you guys bad. that is so scary!!!!!!

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  2. I'm glad you're okay! Crazy weather makes me feel the same way. I love a good thunderstorm, but once it becomes too strong, I get really nervous.

    There was a tornado where I live when I was in 6th grade. The sky that day was unlike anything I have ever seen before.

    I obviously packed up all of my Beanie Babies and hung out in the basement until the storm passed :)

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  3. Such a scary storm! Glad you are okay. We are definitely praying for everyone going without, we were blessed to have minimal damage and not lose power. Our neighbors were not as lucky.

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  4. wow, that is so scary!! it was definitely a smart move on your part to take shelter inside. i remember driving home from ocean city, maryland in july a few years ago, and having to stop on the side of the road bc the rain was so bad. lightning was crashing all around and i was terrified. not a good feeling. my thoughts are definitely with all the folks still without power :(

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  5. Thank the LORD you, James and your parents are alright! There seems to be such crazy things happening lately the fires in CO, these strings of storms, the massive heat wave sweeping across the midwest/south.

    I don't know what I would have done in your situation. Probably cried.

    Stay safe friend!

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  6. First off - unrelated to the tragedy of this storm - you are an amazing storyteller. I was on the edge of my seat (figuratively - I'm lounging in bed right now) reading this. I'm so glad you're okay. Here's a prayer that the electricity gets restored sooner than anticipated. You may end up housing your whole neighborhood otherwise ;) I'm very impressed with your intuition and that you were safe in Barnes and Noble. :)

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  7. Oh my goodness. I am so glad that you're okay. I will pray for you and all that were effected by the storms. I sure as heck would've tried to run it out too. Take care of yourself!

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  8. I'm so so thankful you are OK! I can so relate as you know---incredible pics, it's crazy what a non-tornado can do isn't it?! My heart goes out to all!!!

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  9. Glad to hear that you're okay! The storm came through here as well, but not anything like that in my small town. We got sirens warning us of a tornado around 5:30 and I got some stuff ready to head down to the basement, just in case.
    Luckily, there was just rain, and lots of wind, briefly and then it passed. Unfortunately not everyone was as lucky.
    I love a good thunderstorm too, but not when it gets like that. Yikes.

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  10. Wow, glad you're ok. I can't even imagine how scary that must be.

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  11. You need to move to a different part of the country where storms like this are complete strangers!

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  12. wow! i've never experienced anything like that! i'm so glad you are ok:) and super derecho...sounds like something from nacho libre! but seriously so glad you are ok!!

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  13. Oh my gosh! The weather this year needs to give you a break already. Glad that you are okay, hope that things get much better soon!

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  14. This weather has been absolutely insane! Thankfully we still have power, I joked that we were running a "hotel" this weekend with all the people here taking showers, laundry, enjoying the ac. Hopefully everything is restored soon!

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  15. Absolutely insane, I'm so glad you remained safe & sound inside of that building and chose to not drive home. LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER!!!!!!!! I sound like a mom, huh.

    In my prayers..

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  16. SO GLAD YOU'RE SAFE! That's scary. I'm from AL and was a crisis counselor for tornado victims last summer. That's some tough stuff to deal with. Will definitely keep the Ohio people in my thoughts!

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  17. SO glad that you were able to get inside and take cover. The pictures I keep seeing are SO scary! There are still thousands in our county without power and we thankfully have it.

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  18. Oh man, so scary! My husband and I are actually headed down to Athens, from the Sandusky area, to throw out all our food that is in our deep freeze but with out power. We are thinking 5 days with out power can't be good. So we are losing probably a few hundred bucks in food, but hey it could have been a lot worse. Just wish we didn't have to make the drive on a work evening and be back up north by tomorrow morning. So I'll wave to ya as we pass through C-bus! Still can't believe so much of the state has no power! Hope clean up down there is going well! :)

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  19. Wow, those photos are unreal! There were a lot of trees down around us, but luckily I didn't see any destruction as bad as that! Glad to hear you're okay!

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  20. So...yea being out of town and all I missed this storm but geeeez!! What a crazy one it was. I keep driving around town and seeing stuff down everywhere! I'm glad you are okay!

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