The last time I experienced a tornado was way back in elementary school. I remember that it was dark and that we were all crouched in the hallway in the wing for kindergartners and first and second graders. That was a long time ago.
All journeys have their highs and lows, and we have experienced them both in the Florida panhandle. Since we have been here, we have endured two harrowing storms. The second one, a massive winter storm that residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida found themselves in the middle of on February 23, was a doozy. It is humbling and a bit unnerving to be at the mercy of a storm, especially one with the potential for so many tornadoes.
Those of us in our tiny campground did the best we could as we huddled together in the resort bathrooms awaiting the impending tornado. We truly did not know until the last second whether the tornado was going to stay on its path north directly onto or by our campground, or if it would continue east, so we geared up ahead of time in order to move to safety when the time came. The tornado did continue east, just enough to bypass our little RV community — and the condos on the beach where our mothers, family and friends were staying — moving over and up to Pensacola, which it pounded. It is known that tornadoes are impossible to see in the dark. Rains and winds come, and then cease. The only way to know if a tornado is upon you is by the calm before it and then the sound of a “freight train.” Thankfully, we never heard that calm nor the sound of a tornadic locomotive.
Instead we saw it move on the satellite to our neighbors in the northeast. Instantly, on live stream, a warning for a tornado in Pensacola appeared, with real-time take-covers and sirens blaring. The tornado crushed an apartment complex, a couple of buildings at the GE plant, many homes and flipped a semi-truck. Other regions, particularly an RV park in Convent, Louisiana, had a few fatalities and had lots of damage.
Once the tornado passed, the sheets of rain and whipping winds continued through the night, rocking and swaying our camper, while the stabilizers creaked like the groaning underbelly of a boat, making sleep very difficult. Thankfully, Luna managed not only a strong constitution during the storm, but also an astounding ability to sleep through the night. Amen to that.
Here are some tweets and images of the long night of waiting and wondering.
— Liza Beth Rumery (@LizaBethRumery) February 24, 2016
— Scot Rumery (@srumery) February 24, 2016
— SevereStudios (@severestudios) February 24, 2016
— ABC News (@ABC) February 24, 2016
— Linh (@Linh_oi) February 24, 2016
— Lynnsey Gardner (@WJXTLynnsey) February 24, 2016
There is lots of cleanup, regrouping and starting anew for residents among the four states, but we are very grateful that the tornado followed a different course. We were all exhausted and now have a feel for what a powerful storm can do. We have no plans on waiting out a hurricane. What a night!