Light to Moderate Tornadoes
January 11, 2020
Sometime Around 5:00 a.m. Saturday Morning
The Cedar View Community, DeSoto County, Mississippi
My yellow male labrador retreiver busted out of his laundry room digs Saturday morning and ran back to our bedroom where he jumped on the bed and began licking my face and whining. Do you know what it’s like to be awakened from a deep sleep with a big mutt licking your face? I cussed him, but my wife Janet said she thought she heard distant thunder. Blondie (yes, my dog is named after a big Swede paratrooper army buddy who had that name) has experienced many thunder storms without acting like a wussy, so I got up, stumbled into the family room and turned on the TV.
And of course, while I’m trying to punch up the TV channel, my cotton pickin’ cell phone starts some kind of screaming claxon warning. Technology! Damned it, Jones. Gimme a break. Anyway, sure enough, there it was, a tornado warning with a big red cone coming our way—Hernando, Lewisburg, Cedar View and Olive Branch. I went to the back door, opened it and got stampeded by a heard of cats running between my legs. All this before my first cup of coffee…D#~!!! What can I say? I am NOT a %&$ morning person…at least not before a half-pot of coffee.
So anyway, shortly thereafter the TV and the power went blip and we were suddenly and irrovocably left in the inky black predawn darkness. I told my wife to get into the interior hallway and close all the doors. I went to the front door and walked out on the porch (It’s something us rednecks do when we ain’t sayin’ “Here, hold my beer.”). Yeah, there was a little lightning, but it seemed quiet…..at first.
Only then did the tornado sirens begin wailing. We hear them test once a week, every week, but there’s no comparison when you know it’s the real thing. Kinda makes the hair crawl on your neck. The practice sirens remind me of sniper school back at Fort Bragg–no comparison to the real thing. Back in my railroading days, I once had to jump from a speeding locomotive when its brakes failed. Never since has there been a roller coaster or carinval ride that can increase my heart rate.
So, I’m on the porch, and a warm and somewhat pleasant wind is blowing in my face and I’m thinking WTF? This is pretty nice for January. The wind chimes are tinkling gently…but then from the somewhere down to the southwest I hear it. At first, it was distant. It was an ominous thundering roar, and it sounded like an F-4 Phantom fighter jet on continuous afterburner. It was a long way off, but enough to convince me standing on the front porch might not be the brightest thing I ever did. So, I joined Janet in the hallway. With pillows over our heads, we waited and she began talking, but I told her to wait! I thought I could hear it. Yes, even though we were now in the interior hallway, I could hear it. It was getting closer.
Within a minute the roaring thunder was upon us, that fast, the house literally quaked, our ears popped and loud thumps began coming from debris hitting the outside walls and roof. I was pretty certain we were about to view the night sky minus our roof. And that was when my dear wife said it. Yes, she really did.
“It sounds like a freight train,” she said.
I looked out from beneath my pillow at her.
“I can’t believe you really said that.”
“Well, it does,” she said.
I stood and tossed my pillow at her.
“Where are you going? You can’t go out there!”
“Listen,” I said.
The only remaining sound was the now fading roar of the tornado as it moved away to the northeast.
And it was…that fast.
I switched on my flashlight and went to take a look. As I went to the front door, I noticed one of the cats huddled on a dining room chair. She looked like she had been plugged into a wall socket.
“Buttercup?” I said.
She let out a long and pained, “MEEEOOOOOWWW.”
I opened the front door, but that was a ‘no-go.’ The topmost limbs of an oak tree, that only moments before had been sixty or seventy feet off the ground, were now blocking the door and porch, along with a pile of rocking chairs and such. The root-ball of the same tree had also torn a gaping hole in the driveway when it fell. A four by twelve foot section of asphault was gone.
After a few minutes checking things with the flashlight, I realized we had barely escaped a major disaster. The roof remained largely intact, although it appeared to have been ‘sand-blasted.’ We were unhurt and the critters, although somewhat frazzled, were all accounted for.
I checked on several neighbors and everyone was okay. In our front and back yards, at least four huge oaks, three of them at least four-feet in diameter, were down, along with a big elm and several mature cedars. The fences were gone. The ceiling fan on the back deck was stripped and what trees that were left were decorated for tornado season with strips of pink home insulation. Even my Jimmy Buffet, “It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere” sign was shattered.
There’s a three-foot diameter oak tree about sixty-feet behind the house. Its trunk is twisted like a giant cork-screw. There is another that is at least four-feet in diameter that is snapped off thirty feet above the ground. I’ll be chain-sawing when the cows come in, but I absolutely refuse to whine. NO! No way. We’ve got neighbors in the area whose homes are flat as flitters.
I had two life-long friends, Ted Spence and Mike Thron, drive down from Memphis and after a day’s work clearing debris and puttin up temporatry fences, we didn’t put a dent in the damage, but we celeberated with a bottle of Evan Williams single barrel bourbon. I’m gonna buy a couple more chains for the saw and celebrate more in the coming weeks. There’s nothing like the adrenaline high of dodging a bullet.