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Lucky…A Recollection

Amoco Station 132nd Maple

Amoco Station 132nd Maple

2008 was really pretty uneventful as far as weather was concerned for Omaha. The one decent storm we had was rather intense. One which I was unfortunate to get stuck in my car with my kids during the beginning of it.

I recall taking Michael, 4 and Karigan, 2 out to Shopko to meet with their mom in the parking lot. I left a voicemail on her phone telling her to meet me there at 4:30. While waiting, a friend of mine had called my phone to chat. While we were talking I could hear faint sounds of sirens off in the distance, but I began to ignore them since a nearby community had a volunteer fire department, and it was normal to hear sirens near there when an emergency arose. The key in this area was to listen for all city sirens, which at this time, were silent. I watched as a batch of ominous clouds came over the tree line

I normally am good at weather spotting. I have been fascinated with weather since I was a child, and over the years have found that I can forecast pretty accurately what the day’s weather is going to bring, as well as the next day or so. I suck at physics though. I actually tried to take meteorology in high school, and found it wasn’t possible for me to understand the science behind weather.

I have never seen a tornado which is pretty amazing considering I have lived in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas for most of life (let’s just say several years…more than 10…lol). The cloud formation I saw coming over the treelines I will admit made me nervous. Something about this one was clearly different.


Returning back to the phone conversation, I told my friend,

“Go wake up your kids from their naps and take them to the basement.”

“Why? The weather looks fine. It’s not even raining.”

“It doesn’t rain when a tornado hits. These clouds have me nervous. I’ve never seen a system like this before. Go get them and get to the basement.”

“But it’s not even windy…”

“That’s another classic sign before a tornado hits, dead calm outside…please get your kids to the basement.”

“Fine, I will at least turn on the weather on TV if that makes you feel better.”

“I will feel better knowing you get them downstairs. I need to get off the phone, I have to get my kids to their mom’s before this hits. Call me later and let me know you are ok.”

We hung up the phone. The cloud formation I was watching would have been just about to cross over her neighborhood area 4 or 5 miles away. I decided to take a chance and get my kids on their way home. I figured I had about 10 minutes or less to get there before this thing hit.

I get down to 90th and Maple as the sky starts turning a dark green.  I find myself stuck as the first car in the left turn lane at a major intersection with red lights. By now the wind started to pick up a little, and my 4 year old, Michael begins to realize something is going to happen outside. He is almost in tune to the weather as much as I am, which considering his age, actually says quite a bit. He asks me about it being dark out.

“Daddy, where’s the sun? It got dark out.” His sister who was 2 at the time supports him with a “mmhmm”.

“We’re gonna get some rain Michael, and it’s probably going to get really loud inside the car from the rain. You’ll be ok.” This seemed to work for a moment.

I’m watching the hooked front end of the system as it crosses over near the intersection a block or so away. It’s dipping, rotating, swirling disappearing, reappearing. I look at the traffic light. Still red. I look at the cross traffic, still coming. I wanted to run the light and go, but not at the risk of getting hit by cross traffic. Then it came. The beginning of everything which resulted in the most chaotic 15 minutes of my life outside of Desert Storm.

I had my drivers side window down all the way as it was warm out. As I looked to the right of the intersection to begin the light running idea again, I saw a solid sheet of dust 3 or 4 feet off and parallel to  the ground as it came down the hill surrounding the intersection. It came with such velocity, that it swirled around the drivers side of my car and actually came straight into my car leaving a small cloud of debris floating and settling on my interior. The street sign next to the car started violently rocking and my car rocked with it. I have a little Land Rover Freelander, which is about the size in between a Jeep Liberty and a Suburu Outback. As the wind and dust is beating my car, I return my gaze back to the hook to see what it was doing. It was hooking even more than before. I kept thinking that I would have the only car in the intersection that was going to be picked up and flipped over by the wind. Welcome to your first possible tornado. Then my luck changed for the better. The arrow turned green.

I wasted no time and was driving probably 15 miles over the speed limit getting down Maple street. I had 2 miles to go to get the kids to their house. Rain began pounding down the back side of the car, indicating, that I was milliseconds ahead of it. I’m racing down the road, and that’s when I realized in addition to the approaching rain, I also now had to deal with flying debris. Not pebbles, or a garbage can. Tree branches…big ones being thrown across the road ahead of me. I don’t recall much at this point except hearing my daughter let out an uncomfortable little moan.

As the pea sized hail started hitting my car, I pulled into their mom’s driveway. Her boyfriend was waiting outside for me, and immediate went into action getting to my son’s door. I left the engine running and got out to get my daughter. She’s crying now, as the hail is pounding the car and the street creating a ruckus that just makes her hit a breaking point. She screams.

This hail was left over 2 hours after the storm passed.

This hail was left over 2 hours after the storm passed.

This is when it happend. I didn’t initially feel it. Instead my vision was blinded by a piercing white prismatic light, followed by a razor sharp thud on my head. The hail was getting larger, and it was almost as if I was being sent the first piece for approval of the increased bonus size. (“Would you like Tylenol with your baseball today sir?”) I stood there for a moment to make sure I wasn’t going to black out or anything. I then finished unbuckling my daughter. I wrapped her up tight inside my chest to protect her and started running to the house. The grass, the driveway, the cars, everything was solid layer of hail. It looked like January. I realzied at this point, that I my shoes I had on sucked for running on ice. I actually took 4 strides to recover myself from almost losing balance and falling on top of my daughter. Luckily, I regained footing and got her inside. I was handed the essentials at this point. Dry towels and a beer.

We watched as the neighborhood continued to get beat up for another 10 minutes. When it subsided and the sirens stopped we walked outside to assess damage. The street was flooded up to about 3 feet at its deepest point. Branches were down. Leaves and twigs covered all of the vehicles. Neighbors were coming out slowly to do the same. The clouds were gone, the sun was out, and it was beginning to warm up again.

It was another 2 hours before I heard from my friend on the phone, but she did call and tell me that they were ok. She said as soon as she hung up the phone, the loudest strongest gust of wind she ever experienced came through her neighborhood. She got the kids down to the basement seconds before the storm hit her area at its worst. I made some additional phone calls to check on other friends, most of which didn’t answer their phones. I got text messages back from them checking in. All was good in my world.

I skipped going into work that night for an OT shift, and decided to go help out wherever I could.

As you can see some of the pics tell a little bit of the story. Some of these images actually were aired on KETV Channel 7’s newscast and also placed on their website.

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