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Traveling in storm season - Midwest

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Traveling in storm season - Midwest

Unread postby skipnchar on Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:59 pm

We were on the first day of what would become a two month long trip through the Northwestern US. The plans were to meet up with three of our children and their families in Yellowstone Park in about two weeks. We'd spend a week touring the park and reliving memories from their childhood when we'd taken them there. They were going to head back home after that week and DW and myself would head out for parts yet to be determined.

Traveling West through western Kansas on I-70 and noticed the sky began to look a little dark to the west. As we traveled it began getting darker and more angry looking and the sky was taking on a green tinge. After living in the mid west for most of my life I KNEW what that meant and began contemplating doing a U turn and heading somewhere to sit out the storm. Problem is that in that part of the state it can be 15 or 20 miles between exits. We kept on heading West, looking for someplace to turn around and even briefly considered pulling through the medium to the East bound lane but I could just SEE myself stuck out there with a tornado bearing down on us. The wind began blowing very strongly from straight ahead and I began to push the gas pedal down further and further to maintain 65 MPH on the clock. Finally be started raining and I mean raining HARD. Now I was slowing down because the wipers wouldn't take the rain off of the windshield fast enough for me to even see the highway.

Finally an exit ramp and I could see the ramp was completely FILLED with other vehicles parked just off the roadway. Lots of 18 wheelers and everything else. We pulled up close behind a big truck and switched off the engine to wait out the storm. Listening to the radio and they were warning of several tornados in the area but we didn't know exactly where we were, not even an exit number. As we sat there we were talking about what we would do if a tornado was sighted. There were no buildings in the area at all. We saw that there were a number of folks heading for the underpass but I KNEW better than to get there because it's a death trap. I considered warning them but it would mean a several block jog in heavy rain with some hail so I decided they were on their own. We finally decided that the drainage ditch about 100 feet to the North of the ramp was our best bet.

It was about then that the wind REALLY picked up and the rain was so hard we couldn't see the truck we were parked behind and it was less than 10 feet away. The grass beside the truck was about 2 feet long and was laying completely flattened and the rain wasn't even falling anymore, just flying by heading East. I could see the Rockwood out the back window and I was truly concerned that it would go over because it was rocking back and forth more than I'd EVER seen it. I just couldn't make myself get out of the truck and drag DW and myself into that drainage ditch. The truck still seemed fairly stable, probably being sheltered a bit by the truck ahead.

After about 10 minutes of this super strong wind it began to let up and the rain abated enough to see again. It was soon obvious that the worst of it was behind us (so to speak) and I began to relax a little bit now. Another 10 minutes and the rain was pretty light and the sky was brightening up again. We could see a few vehicles start up and head up the other side of the ramp toward the highway. I fired up the Ford and pulled out from behind the 18 wheeler and was amazed to find the truck just ahead of him was laying on it's side (tractor and trailer). A little further on just across the road and heading up the ramp there was a small travel trailer attached to a 3/4 ton Chevy truck and the trailer had been turned over and it had drug the truck backward down into the drainage ditch. Apparently the trailer had also raked the front of a small car behind it when it turned over because the hood was damaged pretty good.

I got out and made sure that everyone was uninjured in both the Chevy and the 18 wheeler and was relieved to find that they weren't. They had no idea what had happened since nobody had seen any funnel cloud but with the hard rain going on it 's likely that one couldn't be seen. If it WAS a tornado it must have been a very small one or t here would have been a lot more damage to more vehicles. We felt pretty lucky to escaped with no damage at all and headed on West shortly afterward.

I KNOW we should have been in that ditch but got lucky and made a mistake and got away with it. It's hard to know when is the right time. Being outside MIGHT have been worse than staying in the truck since the tornado was small but if it had been a large one the truck would have been a very BAD place to be. The BEST place would have been 15 miles further East so if you get a chance THAT's the place to be (at least 15 miles away from the tornado).

The REST of the trip was great too but a lot more relaxing. :D
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Re: Traveling in storm season - Midwest

Unread postby The Wood Tinker on Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:13 pm

Talk about "reliving memories" you guys won't soon forget that one!
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Re: Traveling in storm season - Midwest

Unread postby jp rver on Sat Apr 05, 2008 10:30 pm

Those are the worst kinds of tornados, the ones shrouded in rain and/or darkness and can't be seen.

About 25 years ago, when I was a young lad, I remember a frightening night when I am certain a tornado passed within 100 yards of a vehicle I was riding in.

Dad and Mom and I were heading north to visit one of my Dad's co-workers. We were travelling in Dad's good old 1973 Ford 1 ton dump truck. I can't even remember why we took the old truck, but that's what we were in. We left late in the evening, and saw the lightning to the west, but didn't think much of it. Well the further we went the closer the lightning got, so we flipped on the radio to listen for storm warnings. The first thing we heard was a tornado warning for the county we were in!!! Well we kept on going as it was dark and we were on an old two lane county road in the middle of nowhere, and just hoped the tornado was someplace else. The rain began, then the hail, and the lightning intensity was really picking up. All of the sudden, a huge gust of wind violently shook the truck and in the flashes of lightning you could see clods of mud and debris flying past the front of the truck. We were between two farm fields with nowhere but perhaps a small ditch to go to. Dad slowed the truck to almost a crawl, and within minutes(seemed like an hour to a 10 year old kid) it was over. I never saw the funnel, but I am sure that the twister was just over in the field somewhere and we just missed it. To this very day, that is the most frightened I have ever been in a vehicle in a storm.
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Re: Traveling in storm season - Midwest

Unread postby lifelongcampers on Tue May 06, 2008 12:03 am

Wow, what a story. We're planning on traveling west this year on a motorcycle. Guess I need to check on the best times to travel related to storms. I hadn't thought of that before reading this.
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