Monday, March 27, 2017

EF3 Tornado

I written about tornados before (here, here and here), but I had another tornado experience that I need to document. 

On February 28th, I was watching TV and the news cut in with alerts of extreme weather. There were a few alerts of possible tornados to the north of me, so I called Josh, who was at work, to let him know that there was a possibility of tornados heading towards Chicago.

While that was going on the news reported a "confirmed touchdown" (of a large tornado) about 30 miles to my immediate west. They projected that the tornado would be hitting Ottawa (the town 10 miles away from me where I do my grocery shopping and go to the gym) within the next 20 minutes and then will be getting to Marseilles at 5:15 PM. 

I was terrified! I called Josh and told him that I was getting a few things together (documents, wedding rings, my papyrus paintings from Egypt, and other irreplaceable items) and I was going to leave the Raptor and head south. While I was telling him this the tornado sirens where he was started going off, which caused me to panic even more!

So I gathered a few things, downloaded the ABC 7 Weather app on my phone, and headed south into the corn fields. I found a place to park about 15 miles south of town where I had a clear 360 degree view of the area. While I was parked I checked my phone to see where the storm was. 

At about 5:00 PM I got an alert that a large tornado had hit the tiny town of Naplate, jumped the Illinois River, and then hit downtown Ottawa. The reports said that at least one person had been killed and that downtown was "destroyed". 

I continued to wait it out and at 5:15 I started heading back to the campground. As I got closer and closer I noticed that the sky was a strange color, it started hailing, and I had NEVER seen clouds like that before. I said, "OH HELL NO!" Turned my truck around and headed south again.

At about 5:30 I checked my app again and saw that the storms had passed the area and were continuing east. I drove back to the campground, fully expecting to not find the Raptor in one piece, and found that the campground was fine. Phew! Once I got inside it started raining and hailing again, but according to the news, the tornado threat here was over.

Shortly after I got home I called Josh to see where he was. He said he was heading home and he wanted to check and see if there were any more tornados to watch out for. 

As he drove, we stayed on the phone so I could tell him if anything was coming at him. A few minutes later the news reported that there was another touchdown in a town called Morris, which is about 20 miles to my east. I knew I was safe because the storms were heading east BUT that is right where Josh was heading! I told him to wait until the storm passed before he continued home. Luckily, the tornado stayed to the south of the freeway and Josh was able to get home safely. But as he was getting close to the campground he was stopped by a police roadblock. They told him that there was a barn in the road up ahead and that the road was closed. 

We watched the news for the rest of the night. They kept showing video of the tornado that had hit Ottawa and the destruction it had caused. They also confirmed that two people were killed and that the tornado like likely an EF3!

A few days later, as I was driving to see my Midwife, I saw this:

Apparently after the tornado hit Naplate and Ottawa it jumped the river AGAIN and hit this farm house! The scary thing is that this house is only a mile north of the campground! I'm pretty sure the crazy clouds I was seeing when I first tried to come home was the EF3 that hit this poor mans house!

There was a crumpled phone tower, debris in the trees, and multiple overturned trailers. The house was destroyed as was anything else on the property. So sad!

I know it's not safe to be in a car during a tornado BUT I felt like it was the only option I had. Since it was still light outside and I had my weather app, I felt like that was the best option for me. We did talk to the owners here at the campground and they informed us that if there is a really bad storm we could got to the Club House/General Store and take shelter.

It was a cold December here in the Chicago area, but we didn't have ANY measurable snow in January or February (a 146 year record). The weather has been super wacky and I am nervous for what the Spring and Summer will bring. Getting large tornados like these this early in the year is really scary! 

It looks like we may be in for a rough few months!

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