By Maggie Rose
June 9, 2010

Tornados to the left of me, tornados to the right of me last Saturday

I am going to relate my storm story now!
It was a dark and stormy night, no wait, it wasn't dark or stormy at first. That's someone else's story. It was actually a bright day last Saturday, but very humid. I went up to the Toledo area to help Denny do his karaoke job at a bar in a little town about 35 miles away from Toledo. We had been told to expect some rain and possible thunderstorms in the evening so I grabbed my red hooded sweat shirt jacket and threw it into the back of his pick up truck that he uses to haul his equipment when he does karaoke. We had enough time to go to a little ice cream stand for some burgers and then some ice cream for desert before leaving on highway 109 to Liberty Center. LC is in the middle of nowhere and although there are lots of different little country roads to get there, the main road, with a full size paved road, is Hwy 109. Some of the other roads aren't paved for two lanes, they're the kinds that if you meet someone coming from the other direction you both have to drive with one side of your car off the road.
So we got to the bar where Denny's daughter Jodie and her husband Ron were there already. It was the bar owner's birthday and there was a big party before we got there. Denny is supposed to start karaoke at 9 but he played a couple of birthday songs first before the karaoke started. We have been playing at this bar for about 5 weeks so far and it seems like the crowd usually gets there around 10:30. I was noticing it wasn't as busy as usual and then it was strange, people started to leave at around 11:00 and that was right after the bartender had run outside with his phone. I thought someone must have been drunk and causing some sort of commotion or something. But the show must go on and for the ones that left we all kept singing.
At one point, shortly after 11: Denny felt his cell phone vibrate and it was my daughter Anna trying to get me. I didn't hear my phone and so I took his phone outdoors to be able to hear her. She started telling me that there were tornados in the area and although she didn't know exactly where the bar was that I should check it out and see if we were safe. I went in and told Denny about it. I asked his daughter if she had heard anything about it and she said she was just called and that it had already passed by and had hit somewhere near. Soon we found out more because her husband went to see if he could help out at a area that was hit just 4 miles away from the bar and town we were in. It turned out that one of the couples that left the bar early, had their mobile home destroyed. Luckily they had taken their two children to another house to be babysat and luckily they were not home or they would have probably been killed. The house was picked up and slammed against another building. So I guess you could say karaoke saved their lives. In a way, I was glad I hadn't known in advance about the tornado(s) but at the same time I was sort of shocked at how close it had come with no warning. We also learned that the road that we had taken to get there was now blocked with trees across the road and possible live wires. We were going to have to go home via the small roads.
Anna called back and said not to rest yet, that there was another huge storm headed this way from Chicago. I was worried about her and the two kiddos but luckily the huge storm line parted at Findlay, basically just giving them a bit of rain. South of Findlay was stormy but nothing like north, just north of BG. I told her we get finished at 1 and to call and give me an update at that time. She said to keep my phone handy before then so I put it on vibrate and stuck it in my bra, yeah, I really did. And it went off. Anna said it was developing possible tornados and going almost exactly the same path as earlier. So at about ten till one we started getting ready to go and although Ron was off, Denny's daughter helped us load up the equipment into his truck and they discussed the best route for us to get back to his place.
So we left with Anna on the phone telling me we needed to hurry so we wouldn't be on the road with a twister. Denny knows the back roads since he's lived in this area all his life and has friends and family all around and so he choose roads that would angle us away from the storm as much as possible. Anna was telling us where the radar on TV was showing it and that they were reporting heavy rains. We already heard that the rain was hiding the twisters and how that they had surprised so many people because it was so dark outside. As we were racing we had to be careful not to drive past the view that the headlights gave us because there were small tree limbs in a few places. At one place I saw what looked like a piece of siding sitting just off the road. Every time there was lightening I could look around and see the horizon except for when we were right up against a woods and I would quickly scan the sky looking for any funnel clouds. It would be so bright, it was almost like having a flash bulb make you temporarily blind. Then it would go back to instant black inky skies. All the time we were going based on Anna's reports, turning here and there. She said that we were just barely ahead of the storm to drive faster. The storm was moving 65 to 70 mph and we were barely going 65. We passed some other cars on one of those skinny roads where both vehicles had to slow down to avoid a crash and I was afraid it was costing us valuable time. Anna said the rain is "really close to you", and as she said it the sprinkles turned into a light rain and I was more scared. Denny was driving behind the Toledo airport zig zagging as she was saying that the news was saying its a few miles from that airport. We got to Denny's street just as the rain got heavy and pulled into his driveway and the rain picked up even more. He backed his truck back into the street and drove us right up the lawn to the door.
We made it but then what? There was so much lightning in the area and the heavy downpour of rain that we needed to know what was happening. Anna needed to get to bed so we turned on the TV and watched the local Toledo stations with their radar and predictions and telling us who was hit and where another tornado was forming. There was one that went across the Ohio Turnpike at the intersection of I-280. One destroyed a school where there was supposed to be the graduation ceremony the next day. Five people were killed but we didn't know that yet just rumors we heard from Jodie who Denny called to let her know we got home safely and to check on her. She lives close to that little town and told him the second storm was hitting her then but she was safe. I was trying to figure out where Denny and I would go in his house if we knew a tornado was around the bend. He has a one story house and the back wall has cement blocks on it except for the bathroom area that was recently remodeled so I figured we'd have to be up against that wall but avoid the bathroom area.
It was scary, first being in the car, then being in the living room watching the storm approach and learning about other people who were losing their homes and losing their lives. One of the people killed was a man who was in the basement of his home with his family after the sirens went off, not realizing there was a tornado just approaching them. Their lights went off and he went upstairs to start up the generator and was killed. His daughter was to graduate the next day and was the Valedictorian. Another woman was riding in her car with her boyfriend, the father of her two year old son, and her father was talking to her over her cellphone much like Anna was with me, but they took a wrong turn and went straight into the storm. Her boyfriend saw the funnel and they were near a police department and he said to get out and "run for your life" but she was picked up and smashed and killed. He was picked up too but only had bumps and bruises. We wondered about how her father must feel, helpless to save her when she listened to her bf and not him. He told her to stay in the car. Another family was in their home, a mom, dad, little girl and boy. The mother and son, maybe six years old were killed, the father and daughter, maybe eight years were in the hospital expected to live. Another woman was pulled out of her car and killed. There were many people on the news who told their story of how they were battered and survived. Two horses were picked up and dropped down several times and then picked up a final time and dropped into a swimming pool. One horse was able to walk out with the steps, the other needed help getting out and a vet to fix his cuts but she was not severely hurt.
I was so nervous I really was biting my nails while we were watching the news and I also ate a bunch of cookies (wheat free of course). I will say this, that Ron was not the only person who went to help out the people. The local news has been full every day of stories of strangers and neighbors rushing in to help the victims. They just released a formal count of homes damaged as I was typing this and it was 39 totally destroyed, 42 with major damage and 710 with some damage.
So yes, I am glad I wasn't in it and even more grateful that Anna and her children weren't in it and I feel badly for the people who were killed or who's homes were ruined, but I am just so sick and tired of living in a mobile home where there in no safe place at all and I just want to get out of here.
For those of you who know how scared I am of storms and driving you ought to realize how scared I was.
For those of you also in the tornado path you are welcome to share your story with me.
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