Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Almost Died Before Ever Seeing Hawaii

Last night some severe thunderstorms went through the area. It had been raining all day, off and on, and it's not unusual to have thunderstorms here in Kansas City. We weren't in a tornado warning, and I hadn't watched the news or really heard anything about the weather all day. So, when I left Beth's house to go home, I wasn't expecting to come face to face with death by tornado.

When I walked out of the Anderson's, it was only slightly drizzling. Carolyn, Dany and I walked to our cars. We didn't jog. We got a little wet. I had my windshield wipers on the lowest setting as we drove away. Like I said, it had been kinda raining off and on all day. No biggie.

As we drove, the rain got heavier. Once we got to I-35 south, it had gotten worse. There was some water on the road and it eventually got to the point that I pulled over to wait out the storm because I couldn't see well enough, even with my windshield wipers on as fast as they would go. Then it started to slow and I felt comfortable driving again.

I pulled back into the road and drove a bit further, where traffic stopped. Initially, since no one was moving, I thought maybe there had been an accident ahead, in the midst of the stormy weather. But, it was just because of the weather. A few moments later, all hell broke loose.

Hail started to come down, faster than I'd ever seen. Tons and tons of hail, ranging in size from dimes to quarters. It started accumulating on the ground like snow. In inches. Probably right around four inches. Of hail. In a few minutes.

The rain and hail were coming down hard, I could hear it hitting my car and windshield, sad that I didn't make it the mile home to the garage. I apologized to my car for not leaving sooner. We had almost made it!

Then the wind picked up, blowing in all directions. Strong wind. Except the only gauge I had for measuring how strong the wind was, was my car shaking as it blew. It was dark (11:45pm), so we couldn't see tree branches blowing, and the rain was coming down so hard we couldn't tell which direction it was coming from. The lightning that flashed was really bright but brief. The rain was hitting the car and washing over the windows so much, I couldn't even see rain drops blowing in one direction or another.

It was so loud that I turned up my radio to try to gauge it. Carolyn and I were screaming over the storm and could barely hear each other. The radio cranked to all but two bars on the volume gauge, and I could just hear it. I'd never be able to stand listening to the radio that loud.

It was then that I started to think that we might be in the middle of a tornado. I was hoping it was a small tornado and wasn't going to pick up my car. I pushed my foot harder on the brake (as if that would help anything) and realized that both of my legs were shaking. Next to me, Carolyn started reciting Hail Mary's and Our Father's. Even I started to think that might be a good idea.

I screamed to her that it had to be over soon. I said it three different times before it was actually over. I looked out of the driver's side window. The left lane of the road had turned into a raging river, and I stepped on my brake some more. Hail was rushing by on my left, accumulating on my right. The windshield wipers, still moving as fast as they could, were now brushing aside shredded leaf particles and small twigs along with rain and hail. Even with the wipers moving, the windshield looked like I was going through an automatic car wash. The wind changed directions.

Out the front window, I saw a green fireball in the sky. A few seconds later, to the left of it, there was a larger green firework looking thing. I screamed, "Holy Fuck!" and hardly heard it. By this time, my heart was beating a bit faster, adrenaline was pumping. The storm lasted a bit longer. It felt like a couple minutes, but I didn't keep track of the time. I'm sure it felt much longer than it actually was, so I wouldn't want to make an estimate.

But it finally died down to just a light drizzle. The car in front of me didn't move. Eventually, I passed it on the right shoulder, driving through the four inches of hail. And I went home. 200 yards south of us, there was no leaf debris in the road. Father south, it looked like nothing happened. Traffic was stacked up in the other direction and on all the exit ramps. We probably saw 6 cop cars or fire personnel in the mile it took us to get home.

Everything at home was fine. The dogs didn't even seem freaked out. But it took me and Carolyn and Dany a good hour to calm down. We looked for information about the storm and tornadoes, but didn't find anything. I was still convinced it was a tornado. And if it wasn't, I never, ever, ever wanted to be in one.

We all agreed it was the scariest thing we'd ever experienced. In the morning, the news said there was a "wet microburst" in the area we were in. Winds reached up to 80 mph and there was lots of rain and hail. Today, we drove around to look at the effects of the storm we narrowly survived. (Yes, this may be an exaggeration, but it certainly felt like we were near death at the time!)

This map shows you where we were parked on 35 last night - at the red X. The highlighted circle is what I approximate as the area of destruction (which is likely not super accurate, though we did drive around the area), and the little black house is approximately around about where I live-ish, kinda.

This is a Sonic where we though we could grab some breakfast. It wasn't open. This used to be their sign.

And this is their parking area.

And this is a big old pile of hail. The storm hit at 11:45pm or so and this picture was taken at 10:30am. It's September. The overnight temperature was in the low 70's. How much hail had to be here??

This is Stroud's. You may have seen it recently on Man vs. Food (look around the 6:15 mark). The sign, which should be on the left, is now down, on the right.

This is the spot on I-35 that we were stopped at last night. There are several broken trees right here.

A closer look at two of the down trees.

And just a little bit behind us, This sign blew over.

And this tree.

And this sign. Which was facing the opposite direction as the that first sign I showed you.

Even this afternoon, the roads were covered in these shredded leaf bits. Trees were just torn apart last night.

And this tree was blown over right behind a Corvette. They got pretty lucky.

About 4 panels of this fence were down.

And another one down, another one down, another one bites the dust.

And a tree on a house.

It was a scary night, and scary day, actually seeing the damage that this storm caused. Power was out for a few thousand in the area, and the traffic lights were all out as well. Everything was a flashing red light with a four way stop.

But, on the bright side, if there hadn't been a storm, I would have never been driving around, and if I had never been driving around, I would never have found this precious gem, right here in Kansas City.

There's always a silver lining.

The deposit is paid for the Hawaii trip. I'm going in February. Here's hoping I don't die before then!

End Blog.


TracyJ said...

There was a wet microburst here in NYC a few days ago also. Lots of trees uprooted and branches down all over the 5 boroughs. One person was killed by a fallen branch on her car and this was after she switched spots with her passenger.

Bren said...

Who ya gonna call?!

Betty (Beth) said...

Thank god you guys are okay. Daniel and I got a TON of hail up here and heavy winds, but nowhere near the damage they had down there. So crazy.

Also, I've actually met the guy that made that car and lives there. He did a Delorian from Back to the Future too.

Dany said...

Seriously- that was the scariest shit EVER. When the back left tire lifted off the ground I thought for sure I was a goner.