When I was six, my family lived outside Ogallala, Nebraska in a trailer park called Hillcrest. This place became my first encounter with the destructive forces of Mother Nature.
Sure, I’d seen the power of blizzards, but not something so powerful mankind has no shield against it. Sure, a blizzard is a force to be reckoned with, but you can avoid it by staying off the roads and indoors. A tornado is a whole different beast. Even if you escape into a cellar, it will, and can, wreck your world.
I remember so clearly the details of that day. My family was out in the garden working, putting fresh-mowed grass around strawberries in a bed my father built. The sky didn’t look particularly threatening that day, more like rain than anything else. There was a flash of lightening in the sky. My father looked up and said, “Time to go in.” So we put our tools in the shed and headed for the front door.
My father was the last to go through the door, and as he was pulling it shut, the storm hit. My father is not a little man. He is well over 6’4” and strong from years of working on my grandfather’s ranch. That burst of wind ripped the door off the hinges and out of his grip before he could shut it, nearly taking him with it.
You know how they say there is always a warning a tornado is coming. There isn’t. We had no warning whatsoever. No ugly green skies. No high wind, hail and rain. It just hit. The trailer began to rock, squawking as it shook, the walls literally moved in and out like the trailer was breathing, flexing in the force that threatened to consume us. The storm had this sound, and the only way I can describe it is that it was a growling freight train—a groaning, whistling growl. I could not hear my sister who was on the floor beside me it was so loud.
Then I remember thinking, this thing is going to eat us. I started to cry. Seconds later, it stopped. The world went silent and for several seconds the members of my family just stared at each other. I know my heart pounded, and though I didn’t really understand death at that time, I knew something quite profound had happened and I was lucky to be there.
Outside was a war zone. The front steps of our trailer were gone, along with the camper shell that had been on my father’s truck. The truck remained, but the shell was torn off it. My dad’s motorcycle was gone, along with several petrified rocks from the flower garden—some weighing over 1000 pounds, plucked from the ground like pebbles. The house that had been across from us was gone. The one behind us, the roof had been peeled away like the lid on a can of sardines. All of these things were found in a field five miles down the road.
Flash forward two years.
My family moved from that trailer park on the bluff overlooking Ogallala. We now live down in the valley. I am in elementary school and tornado alarms are wailing across the town. We are lined up in the hallways, face to face, heads tucked into our knees, hands over our heads as we’ve been drilled to do. I’m terrified and it doesn’t help. A teacher is on the floor next to me, rubbing my back and I know from the look in her eyes, she is scared to death. Her touch does little to assure me “everything will be okay.” Which she keeps repeating over and over. Again I hear the roaring as the storm rolls across the valley and over our heads, leaving our school intact. When it’s over, students are crying, teachers are shell-shocked and trying their best to keep it together. If not for the school sitting down in the valley, the tornado would have destroyed the building. We were lucky.
At the age of sixteen, I witnessed my third tornado. This time, there was no doubt the bully was in the school yard. The sky was an ugly green and it boiled, churning in on itself. The first show of its teeth came as sudden wind that bent trees, followed by hail and downpour so heavy, you couldn’t see someone standing five feet from you. I am doing my best to get my horse in the barn and under cover from the hail stones. She’s terrified and fighting me. She rears, pulls the lead out of my hands and runs for the other end of the pasture. That’s when it hits and I find myself ducking into the barn to avoid the hard quarter-sized ice pellets that are pinging off everything. After about two minutes of the most intense rain, wind and hail I’ve ever experienced, it went dead silent and still. There was no transition. One moment all hell was busting loose, the next, you could hear a cricket chirp from a mile away, if it had been inclined to do so.
That’s when I heard the roar. I looked out of the barn and about two miles down the road, a twister dropped from a cloud that looked like it could almost touch the ground. My father yelled from the house and we all made for the well house, the only place underground. There we sat in the dark, listening to a battery operated radio until the local radio station declared it all clear.
Again that day, we were spared. Later that summer at the county fair, a tractor tire with a two-by-four was on display, one from the very storm we’d run from that day, from a farm just a bit up the road. The tire was completely inflated, the board rammed through the middle. The force of the storm had twisted the rubber on this thick tire and shoved that board through it, leaving all the air inside. If that doesn’t speak of the power a tornado possesses, I don’t know what does.
Over the years, I have had several other brushes with these terrifying storms, some in places people say they would never happen. When the wind hits all of a sudden in the middle of the night, you will see me fly out of bed, press my face to the window and strain out into the dark to see if the beast approaches. My husband laughs at my behavior when I call him from work or home. I’m terrified of thunder and wind storms. To this day, I will pace when they hit, especially if it is sudden.
During my life, I have learned a healthy respect for Mother Nature. So why a storm in a Prepper novel. Are you prepared to face the beast?
When it comes, you better be.
Dry Spell Blurb:
The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the eastern parts of Sublette and western and middle Fremont counties until seven p.m. CST. Doppler radar has indicated a line of thunderstorms with possible rotation moving east toward Sublette county....
Army vet Quinn Smith is just passing through Evans Point, or so she says. When she blows through town driving ninety-miles-an-hour, she snags the eye of the local Sheriff, Jake North.
Jake catches her climbing over a fence onto private property. Quinn claims to be chasing a storm, but Jake’s not buying it. There’s more to the beautiful woman’s story than she's told him. A dangerous maelstrom forces them to take shelter in a culvert, and sparks fly. Stranded in the prepper community of Evans Point, Quinn must face the truth about her past before she can move toward a possible future with the town’s sexy sheriff.
Dry Spell Excerpt:
“I could sell video of this storm for a profit and have change to spare. Best shot was from up there. Just trying to make a little money to get home. I didn’t mean any harm and, I promise you, I don’t break the law often—ever—never. I don’t break the law. I really, really need this. Please, can you let it go?”
The hair on his neck rose in response to a funny electricity in the air, like he stood near a high-voltage wire. Jake shook off the warning and focused on the pretty woman before him. “So you were going to stand in the rain and film, hoping something would happen?”
“Actually,” she said, “something is going to happen.” She gestured with her thumb to the sky behind her. “See all those bumps in that cloud that dip down like a bunch of breasts? That’s a cumulonimbus. Those pockets hold hailstones. A supercell is created when a cold and warm front collide. I’ve been tracking this weather, watching and waiting. And see how low they are—the little wisps and the rotation? Incredible. I can’t put words to it. It’s….”
He looked up and noticed not only the rotation, but the twister that dropped down as she spoke. “A tornado.” Though he could appreciate the graphic description, breasts in the clouds and all, there were much bigger things than titties in the sky to worry about. He grabbed her hand. “This way.” Jake dragged her at full run a hundred yards down the interstate toward a culvert that ran under the highway. They were lucky she’d stopped so close to the only shelter for miles around, or they’d be out of luck.