Atmosphere And Weather

Surviving a Tornado

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"Surviving a Tornado"
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Growing up in the mideast, we got alot of snow in Virginia. I remember my mother bundling me up in my bunny rabbit snow suit that she had made, and sending me out in snow up to my waist. As the years went by, the snow seemed to taper off. On September 16, 2003, I stood at my front door and watched Isabel rip through the entire tri-cities and Richmond areas. It is utterly amazing how mother nature can make such an impact on so many lives in a short period of time. We were without power for two weeks. There were only 2 gas stations within a 20 mile radius that were operating. Needless to say, it took 4 hours to get one tank of gas. Accidents were plentiful, as stop lights were out across the entire area, and not enough persons to direct traffic. It flooded all of The Bottom in Richmond, and businesses lost extreme amounts of money. It took a while for everyone to get back on track and live life the normal way. I did not realize at that time that Isabel was not the worst thing I would experience.

I have lived a very secluded life. I've not traveled far or often, and when I would travel, it would be for a week at a time. Our church owns a lodge at a Christian camp called Eagle Eyrie. This camp is nestled in the mountainside of the Blue Ridge. My youth counselor approached me and a friend of mine, and asked us to chaperon another youth group that was using our lodge for two weeks. We jumped at the chance and gladly accepted. We were to be there for one week, be home for the weekend, and arrive again for the second week. As we were coming home after week one, a typical ride down I95 proved anything but normal. On August 6, 1993, Christmas had come early. I say this as there were lights as far as you could see. Every police officer, fireman, and EMT from all around had Southpark Mall surrounded. We could see the Walmart barely standing with 2 walls. As fate would have it, in my secluded life, I would be out-of-town when this massive, destructive tornado ripped through Colonial Heights. My father had barely escaped its wrath as he was leaving work that day. I watched day after day, week after week, until the area had recovered. Since then, I've always wanted to see a tornado up close and personal. My wish came true just last week.

Monday, April 28, 2008, my husband and 2 of my 3 children were on a routine shopping trip, heading to Michael's craft store for his paint supplies. My daughter was safe at school. I had originally decided to stay in the car with boys, but nature called, and we went inside to the little girls room. After-wards, I decided to pick up some supplies for my next craft project. My husband had the children in the cart with him about 3 aisles away from me. I have always had a sixth sense for things, so when my little voice told me to look towards the front, I did, only to look straight up at the ceiling. That unforgettable sound of a freight train was directly over my head. I looked forward again, only to see the sky turn to sheer black. Shopping carts were flying and signs were breaking. It ripped a hole in the roof of Micheal's, and it started raining in the store. An employee started screaming "Tornado! Everyone to the back!" All of us, customers and employees, found ourselves huddled in the back like sardines. About 3 minutes passed, which seemed like an hour, and we slowly made our way to the front of the store. The carnage was evident. Car windows were shattered. There were trees on cars. The parking lot looked like a greenhouse, with branches and plant-life laying askew. Everyone from every store in the shopping center was on their phone. There was no one panicking, since everyone seemed to be in the initial shock phase and dazed. The tornado hopped over the intersection, into the adjacent shopping center. It completely devastated many of the smaller stores there. Cars were on their sides and roofs,and there were cars on top of cars. Some of these people were still in their vehicles. Two-hundred people were injured, 18 of them critical, and one person's life was taken. It might seem like a minute number, compared to natural disasters in the past, but it still affected alot of lives. Upon leaving, my husband and I assessed the damage. It had also hit our local Chevrolet dealership, bending steel light poles like flexy straws on to new vehicles. Many of these cars had their windows shattered as well. It missed the Harley and Ford dealers, and ripped through the tree line to follow the river, never to be seen again. From onset to end, it only took 1 minute to do it's damage and leave.

We didn't learn until later that night that it had started on the westbound side of I95, taking out a swimming pool business. It hopped over the interstate to hit Michael's, where my family and I were, then continued on it's path of destruction to the river. This natural phenomenon had come directly over our heads. I now realize, a whole 4 days later, that we were extremely lucky. It could've easily gone THROUGH Michael's, like it did Medallion Pools and Payless. This particular tornado could have seriously hurt, if not killed my entire family. I still pray for the people who were hurt, and for the family of the only known fatality. This day sent alot of people into having flashbacks as well. Although on a smaller scale, the tornado I experienced Monday followed the EXACT same path as the one on August 6, 1993. Eerie, huh?

If I learned anything from this, it is that mother nature is not a force to be reckoned with. Also, never take life for granted. Tell the people you love that you love them. Enjoy every day to it's fullest, as you never know when an average trip to the store could be your last.

More about this author: Kimberlee Tanner

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