Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Night After Christmas 2015 - Extreme Weather

Willard's Gas Station or what's left of it.
We were watching a DVD when the tone sounded on our phone. Extreme alert was the message. We immediately turned on the TV to discover severe storms were in the area. Some communities were being advised to take cover.

It was already dark and the newscasters advised people not to go outside because with the rain a funnel cloud would not be visible. The warning was set to expire at 7:30 pm. We lost power at 7:20.

The view from the south toward Willard's
At that moment what goes through the mind is a jumble of thoughts. What should I take into the shelter?

I grabbed my engagement ring, my purse, cell phones, the weather radio, batteries, a blanket, flashlights and the dogs. Do we have candles? Yes. I ran to get them along with a lighter. 

We strained listening for the telltale sounds that everyone describes after a tornado: the freight train, the howling wind, the slamming of objects against the house, the roof creaking with the changes in air pressure.

The Emergency Broadcast System kicked in with the announcement often deemed "a test". This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This was not a test. This was the real thing. 

"A funnel cloud has been spotted in the Rowlett area, heading north east along a path expected to cross Lake Lavon." We live near Lake Lavon!

"A wall cloud has been spotted in Wylie heading along Highway 78. It is difficult to determine the extent of damage in the darkness with power poles snapped and lines downed."

Power Lines Down
Moments later, a rerun of the EBS announcement. Old news by now. Then, live broadcasters announce that several locations took a hit with high level winds involving multiple tornadoes. 

First responders assisted with a possibility of five fatalities in the Garland area, about twenty miles from us. Later more deaths were confirmed.

Next, news came of the twister in Farmersville. Correction, "a small town south of Farmersville where a gas station has been demolished and one person has been found, deceased. Another, critically injured, has been transported from the scene." They listed the FM crossroads. We Googled the location - about a mile and a half from our house. Our familiar gas station leveled; search and rescue teams going house to house looking for survivors.

By the dim light of our LED flashlights, we huddled in the only room with no windows, the bathroom, texting what might be our last messages to friends and family expressing our fears and our love before the all clear signal was announced.

Debris near our house

As dawn broke the next morning, Sunday, torrential rain pelted the area. TV breaking news showed photos of devastation in the surrounding communities and we counted our blessings, having dodged another close call.

Insulation, roof shingles, siding lodged in the trees.

A computer board  is wedged in the branches.

Our hearts go out to the residents of this house and to others in the area.