Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stormy Weather

Location: Bushnell, Fl.

Last night, a fierce squall line swept across Central Florida. Two prominent bands of storms were heading from the Gulf towards Sumpter County where Bushnell is located. My weather alert radio kept going off as county by county were added to the Severe Thunderstorm and then the Tornado Watch lists. Sumpter County was on them both. The sky, which had until then been just cloudy, started to take on a menacing feel. The light got increasingly dimmer and turned vaguely greenish, the air got very still, and even the birds stopped chirping. That "bad storm coming feeling" surrounded everything.

People in the line of the heaviest storms, still to our south-east, were being advised to take immediate shelter in a strong building and to stay away from windows. Wind gusts were reported to be up to 80 mph and hail the size of pennies was falling. The most secure buildings in this campground are the rest rooms, but there are several hundred RVs and park models here, and only four sets of rest rooms. Luckily, one is only about 100 feet from my site, but I would be sharing it with the residents of about 150 other units.

As I was putting together a bag of things I'd want to take if I had to evacuate the RV, the alerts suddenly got more serious -- a tornado had been spotted 21 miles away, heading directly for Bushnell at 55 miles per hour. The rain began to fall fast and hard, and I could hear thunder getting closer. It was obviously time to head to the rest room. So I grabbed my bag and ran through the rain to the restroom, where everyone was packed in like sardines, obviously worried and trying to make the best of a scary situation -- but safe and dry.

Okay, almost all of that is true, but the packed in like sardines is, unfortunately, not. There were seven of us all together -- three other humans and their three dogs -- a Schnauzer, a Lhasa, and a cute curly haired mutt. That's it. No one else seemed to feel that being in an RV, in the midst of tall oak trees, with a tornado due to arrive in less than 20 minutes, merited any concern whatsoever. I just don't get it.

We passed the time in the restroom chatting and listening to a weather radio, and petting the dogs who seemed to appreciate the attempt to take their minds off the booming outside. Fortunately, the storm passed without incident -- we had torrential rain, strobe lightening, and a fair amount of wind, but no additional tornadoes. The rain slowed to a drizzle, and we returned to our RVs while the storm continued on to Orlando.

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