Thursday, February 14, 2008

Waiting It Out In The Bathroom -- AGAIN

I'm now in Sumpter Oaks, outside of Bushnell, waiting for my mail to catch up with me, doing laundry, and wishing I was back in the Keys (it got down in the 30s here last night). My last night in Jonathon Dickinson was, however, pretty intense.

I had a 200 mile drive ahead of me when I left Jupiter, which isn't bad unless you have had no sleep, which was almost the case. I was reading in bed about 9 PM, when the first alarm sounded on my weather radio. A tornado watch was in effect for our area until about 9:30. I turned on the TV, and watched a local station's coverage of the storm until 9:30 when they reported the storm had dissipated... but there was another disturbance to the south they were watching. And this turned out to be more than just a "disturbance."

The real excitement didn't start until around 11:00 PM, and by then it was clear that wave after wave of severe thunderstorms were forming just past Key West and travelling north-east, dumping inches of rain and threatening tornadoes all along the path to Jupiter. My weather radio alerted time after time, for marine dangers, severe thunderstorms, tornado watches, and finally a tornado warning. The television showed the storm that prompted the warning -- a bright red area of the storm, forming a telltale "hook" as the winds started to spiral in the upper atmosphere. Where was it headed? Jupiter of course!

It was still about half an hour away, but it was time to get ready to seek a more secure shelter, just in case. I packed my bag with emergency supplies, and stayed glued to the TV. The storm was not dissipating and was due to hit my area around 1 AM. So about 10 minutes to one, 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.

Does the last sentence sound familiar? It is a verbatim line from a post on January 20th, and this time it is just as untrue as it was then, except now I was absolutely, totally, alone in the restroom. I had to wade through ankle deep water to get into the shelter, and one lightening strike was so close I could smell the ozone. I chose my spot in the building, and waited. The rain intensified, the thunder cracked so often that, at times, it melded into a single sound, and the wind picked up to the point that it even sounded like the "freight train" so often associated with a tornado. But there was no tornado. I waited until 15 minutes after the predicted "arrival time" of the tornado before returning to the RV. The rain was still falling, but it was more a drizzle now, and the lightning was less frequent and farther away.

Everyone else rode out the storm in their RVs and tents, where the chance of surviving a tornado would be rather low. And this happened in the dark of night, when spotting a tornado in time to make it to the shelter would have been very difficult. When I got back to the RV, the tornado watch was in effect until 7 AM, so I figured my sleep would be minimal that night. I could not extend my stay as my site was already booked for the next day. But luck was with me -- around 2 AM the storms calmed down, the alert was lifted, and I actually got some sleep before hitching up and moving out the next morning.


Froggi Donna said...

I remember our first experience with that...we were in PA and the warnings came. We could tell by the sky that it was going to be nasty but had no idea what COUNTY we were in...something I always try to determine nowadays. Glad you're ok!

O. B. Sirius said...

Hey, Froggi,
Some of the first things I do now is set up the weather radio, and figure out what county I'm in. I also leave an atlas out so I can determine out how far I am from cities they might mention in the weather reports. It's also helpful to know your zip code -- a lot of store locators use that instead of city/state. Lessons learned!