On Tuesday morning, we woke up to weather warnings. Again. I have never lived in an area with so much violent Spring weather and it’s A BLAST!!! Just as the radar showed the front was almost past us, the winds whipped up violently. Whoo hoo!!
Years ago, a tornado touched down in our backyard in Texas. We were experiencing a really bad thunderstorm. There was no tornado warning that night. I just remember I was talking to my brother on the phone, looking out the bedroom sliding glass door, and a transformer exploded, I screamed, the phone (a landline) buzzed, and the connection was dropped. I ran into the living room and our dog at the time, Baysha, was barking like crazy!! I tried to calm her down but that didn’t work.
The living room had two sets of French doors in the back, and one in the front (facing each other). At the exact same moment, all of the doors blew open, including our son’s bedroom door (which was an interior door so that was bizarre). And, that’s when I knew. TORNADO!! I got the kids into the bathtub in the middle bathroom and, as quickly as it started, it stopped.
The next morning revealed several of our backyard pine trees with their tops missing. The tornado did what I called a “touch ‘n go.” It bounced down, hit the ground once, and went back up. We never heard the local storm siren going off. Either it didn’t go off, or the storm was louder than the siren.
Since we have no wind breaks on top of the mountain here in Georgia, we’ve been slowly getting used to occasional 30 to 40 mph winds, with gusts topping 60 or more. (My new greenhouse hasn’t blown away yet!)
So, on Tuesday morning, it was starting to calm down a bit but then the wind went NUTS again! And, guess what else went nuts? Our dog, Tank. He started barking and barking and running around like he didn’t know what he was trying to attack (or protect us from). I knew what that meant! I grabbed my purse and laptop and we all raced down to the basement.
It didn’t last long. I don’t think it was a tornado. But, two of our solar lanterns were destroyed when the wind pulled them off their hooks and threw them on the deck.
Usually, you get a reprieve between storm systems, but not this week! Just hours after the Tuesday morning storm, our phones started warning us of another system, which would hit on Wednesday evening.
Mason’s youth group was cancelled early in the day on Wednesday. The church also cancelled choir practice that night. I had some errands to run and, while I was doing that, I realized that the day was starting to get really weird.
1. Interstate 24 was shut down for an accident. Traffic was at a standstill. I hate driving on freeways so I always take back roads anyway. Unfortunately, people stuck on that non-moving freeway were exiting, and taking my route.
2. I got to Lookout Mountain (the winding road high above the river that is absolutely beautiful). And, the traffic was at a standstill there as well. Completely stopped. I put the Jeep in park, and cranked up the music. I was soooo glad I peed before I left the house!! A trip that normally takes me 45 minutes took 2 hours and 10 minutes. No biggie. It beat the heck out of sitting at home on my laptop.
After finally getting off the mountain, I found traffic for miles on the other side, coming onto the mountain from the north. That meant I’d have to find a completely different route home.
3. I had three more errands to run on the way home. One was to the UPS store in Ft. Oglethorpe. After I left there, I headed toward a really cool, low tunnel there. Traffic was stopped approaching the tunnel. I strained my neck and eyeballs. An 18-wheeler had pulled right up to the entrance of the tunnel before realizing that NO TRUCKS are allowed in it. He’d have done a lot of damage if he hadn’t seen the warning signs. It was a two-lane road. No room for him to turn around. He’d have to go in reverse to get out of that mess. But, there were a zillion cars lined up behind him. Everybody was, one-at-a-time, squeezing around him, and going into the tunnel. I turned the radio back up, danced and sang in my seat, and waited my turn.
4. After coming out of the tunnel, I took a left instead of a right (which would have taken me into downtown Chattanooga, and that really bad traffic at the base of Lookout Mountain). I knew my GPS would eventually re-route me through different backroads. I could, of course, clearly see the mountain in front of me and I just took roads that led me closer to it. My plan worked.
5. When I got close to the bottom of the mountain, I approached another low tunnel and, guess what? An 18-wheeler was stopped right in front of that one, too!! I have never in my life seen that happen and I’d seen it twice in about 20 minutes. BIZARRE!! I creeped around him, and kept on my way.
6. I got back on the winding mountain road, heading south. No traffic was on my side but there was still TONS of traffic on the other side.
Brian called, reminding me that the weather was going to get bad. But, I really wanted to get two more errands done.
7. I finished my errands, and saw big, dark clouds moving in from the west. I was only concerned about getting soaking wet unloading groceries. I really wasn’t worried about the storm system coming through.
Then, Mason called me. He was worried that I was out in the weather because we’d just been put under a tornado watch. I told him, “Don’t worry. If I see a funnel cloud, I’ll send you a picture!” He did not think that was funny. And, about 10 minutes later, I came around a bend and I swear what I saw in the sky looked like a dark funnel between two mountaintops. But, maybe it wasn’t a tornado? I couldn’t see the bottom of it because it dipped behind on of the mountaintops.
I did NOT pull over to take a picture. I was heading right for it!! There was a guy in a truck in front of me. He was heading into the black, too. Thunder was roaring and lightning was streaking across the sky. I (stupidly) thought, “He’s probably lived here longer than we have. If he thinks it’s safe to keep driving, it must be.” Derrrr…
8. I hit the rain. It went from nothing to everything in a split second. I turned my windshield wipers on high and I stopped dancing in my seat because I could no longer hear the music over the rain. The “sideways” rain was hitting me head on. I just kept driving because, you know, I had ice cream in the backseat!! Derrrrr again…
I exited the main backroad, and got onto Murphy Hollow Road, which is in the valley at the base of Sand Mountain. Our house is on Sand Mountain. Murphy Hollow Road has some rich history. There is a natural spring where Civil War troops would camp. The link above is very interesting!!
Murphy Hollow Road is paved…for the most part. It’s an absolutely beautiful winding, up and down country road (a hoot to drive – it’s like a roller coaster!!) of not quite two full lanes. One part of the road is in bad shape from erosion and lots of potholes. There is a meandering stream that follows the road and it turns into a small river with rapids after heavy rains. This picture was taken on a sunny afternoon. It was NOT taken yesterday!!
So, I’m driving and, with the direction I was heading then, the rain was hitting me sideways. It’s difficult to speed on Murphy Hollow Road because of all the twists and turns. All of the sudden, I noticed that my ears popped, which was bizarre because I was in the valley. When we drive up the mountain to our house, our ears always pop. And, mine always pop around the same place, which is about half way up. My ears never pop in the valley.
Then (this is the biggest derrr…), I started seeing pebbles hitting the Jeep. I said out loud to myself (because I always talk to myself), “Where are these pebbles coming from?” It took me several seconds to realize those weren’t pebbles. IT WAS HAIL!!
Now, I’ve seen enough storm chasers on Youtube saying “We’ve got hail!” to know what that meant! My adrenaline went into overdrive and I put the pedal to the metal, baby, and I BOOKED IT!!! Of course, being surrounded by trees, I had no way of knowing if there was circulation above me, next to me, behind me, or in front of me. No clue at all. I just knew I had to get the heck out of there!
I briefly thought, “I can stop at a house, and bang on the door.” However, most of the buildings I was passing were mobile homes. I then thought I could jump out of the Jeep, throw myself into the big stream, and cover my head. I hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
I was FLYING down that road and then, all of the sudden, it was sunny. In the blink of an eye, I had driven right out of the blackness.
I didn’t slow down. What if it was chasing me?! And, I knew that I had to get to the end of Murphy Hollow Road, head up the mountain, and then head BACK WEST, meaning back into the storm.
I was about three quarters of the way down the road, and came upon a banged up pick-up truck meandering down the road in front of me. I thought, “Gee, he’s probably lived here longer than we have. He must have just driven through what I did. And, he’s not in a hurry at all!”
Then, I figured it out. His truck bed was open and he had a motorcycle and all kinds of stuff in the back of his truck. Around each curve, that bike would lurch to the side. It wasn’t tied down very well. That’s why he was driving so slowly.
So, as my adrenaline kept pumping, I slowed to a crawl behind him. I had plenty of time to push the phone button on my steering wheel to call Brian, and tell him to get everybody into the basement. NO ANSWER! I called 5 times. It rang 5 times each time and I got his voicemail every time. He FINALLY picked up and I yelled, “Hail! HAIL!! GET TO THE BASEMENT!!!”
At the end of Murphy Hollow Road, I cursed a tiny bit when I realized motorcycle guy was going the same way I was. No way can you pass anyone on the mountain road. There are too many twists and turns, and even one switchback that is a complete hairpin turn. As he proceeded upward, everything in his truck lurched and I thought he was going to drop some stuff on my hood. He did not.
He actually drove faster on the main mountain road, which is well-paved. After my turn (he had proceeded straight), I booked it again. I usually back into our driveway because it winds downhill behind the house. This time, I pulled straight in, screamed around the turn, and came to a screeching halt under the carport. I jumped out and Brian calmly walked outside. The storm had already passed our house, too. He said the wind blew up violently, and dropped the temperate about 20 degrees. When he was not answering his phone, he had been outside closing up the greenhouse.
My adrenaline level was still very high. As I was putting away the still-frozen ice cream (heh…), I was speaking very fast, like I’d had WAY too much caffeine. I told him what happened, concluding with, “IT WAS AWESOME!!! Do you want to drive down the mountain and do it again with me?!?!”
He steered me in the back door, and said, “No.”
We then sat on the porch upstairs, watching the storm system retreating to the East. We didn’t see any funnel clouds but there were some big, dark clouds barreling towards Chattanooga.
We never had a tornado warning. Only a watch. There is a lot of rural property out here and some tornadoes touch ‘n go, with no warning at all, and sometimes with nobody knowing about them.
“In fact, the NWS missed more than 25 percent of tornadoes from October 2007 to September 2016, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information and Steven Nelson at the NWS office in Peachtree City, Georgia. That number climbed to 39 percent or higher in 2013.” – The Weather Channel
As we were sitting on the porch, I told Brian the story about the tornado that touched down in Texas. And, all of the sudden, I had a thought that I’ve never had since that happened about 30 years ago. What happened to our treetops that got sucked up into the sky?!
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- Wait Just a Dadgum Minute! Tornadoes Travel on Mountains?!
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