Friday, May 30, 2008

Terror On A Stormy Night

Last night's monster super tornadic cells that swept through Nebraska, Kansas, and points east were so massive, fast moving, and destructive, that I felt compelled to write about them in their aftermath, as per usual, the MSM doesn't even begin to scratch the surface and got several things wrong.

I'll begin by admitting to you, that along with residents of my apartment building here in Lincoln, Nebraska, I was terrified almost to the point of paralysis as the building shook and swayed under the force of hurricane like winds and the loudest, most reverberating thunder one can imagine. It wasn't just a rumble here and there, but was more like a barrage of artillery fire in constant cadence to the flashing of huge bolts of lightning streaking across the entire sky like some sort of sick symphony of destruction.

Watching from just inside the upper floor balcony, tree limbs whipped by myself and several other residents as we awaited yet another power outage, as this was the third wind driven storm to come through this week. But we were lucky this time, and although 5,000 other Linconites are still without electricity this morning, Lincoln itself was spared the more damaging tornadoes that seemed to be dropping from the sky like so many raindrops in the areas all around us.

The extent of the damage was such that Nebraska Governor Heineman has declared a state of emergency. Kearney, which is about 130 miles due west of Lincoln, and Aurora, 60 miles closer, bore the major brunt of one super cell, with widespread damage along Interstate 80 leading all the way back across the state.

One mile east of the town of Odessa, 90 cars of a freight train were derailed by one powerful twister, while moments before the residents of Elm Creek ran for their lives as another touched down four miles outside of town. Elwood and Arapahoe got blasted by 3 inch diameter hail, as well as strong straight winds, some gusting to almost 90 miles per hour.

Meanwhile a tornado appeared two miles west of Kearney, meandering along and taking out the entire western side of the exhibition building at the fairgrounds, as well as apartment building roofs, and Good Samaritan hospital had their doors blown in and part of their roof torn off. The World 2 theater is flooded with three inch deep water, and trees and power lines were down everywhere.

As the storm headed east, mother nature wasn't quite done with the residents of the area, as another twister dropped down 3 miles north of Kearney and another 5 miles southwest. Nearby Overton was walloped by yet another tornado at the same time that Wood River was slapped with 2 inch diameter hail and Aurora residents ran for cover from two more tornadoes that came in from from both the west and the south, damaging several gas stations and houses.

At the same time Grand Island was hit with a twister, York was pelted with rock sized hail and high velocity straight winds, and storm chasers coming back to Lincoln saw at least six tractor trailers overturned along I-80. As the storm moved closer to Lincoln, there were torn up high voltage power lines lying across the interstate, as well as another confirmed tornado just east of Beaver Crossing. Debris was everywhere, and no one was sure just how much damage was done.

Watching the radar screens from several different weather sites, it seemed that Lincoln was about to be torn asunder. The winds were howling so loudly that they sounded more like screaming ghosts, and we battened down the hatches awaiting the dreaded sirens to start blaring, telling us all to tuck our heads between our legs and kiss our asses goodbye. But lo and behold, just as the first wave of super cells hit the edge of town, it seemed as though the hand of God himself reached down and split the storm in two. One half of the storm broke away and headed northeast, while the bottom half ducked due south. Yet although spared the full fury of this particular whopper of a storm, one that reached 10 miles into the atmosphere, Lincoln was still blasted by the nastiest thunder and lightning seen in quite a while, as well as straight line winds that shook the city to it's core.

Luckily this was the worst part of the line of cells that hit us here last night, but it wasn't the only one. Every time we thought it was over, whoosh! Along came another storm, ones that seemed to be forming out of nowhere. They weren't on radar one second, then poof, uh oh, run for your lives!

This morning shows the politicos dashing around to assess the damage, but it's very easy to see that parts of eastern Nebraska are under 4 inches of water, central parts of the state dealing with 7 inches, the damage is widespread, but so far there have been no reports of fatalities or injuries.

They say being prepared for these types of events will save lives and that's clearly the case here. Because although Mother Nature tried her best last night to murder the good citizens of this state, we all survived it seems, although the loss of life could have been severe. Still, I think I've seen enough of these monster storms for one week, and hope the weekend will bring some sunshine to a battle weary populace in tornado alley. Because despite the excitement and the adrenalin rush, I don't think my poor heart could stand yet another assault from the skies.

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