Glued and Terrified!
~Tuesday, January 24, 2023~
Well, it looks like we’re in for some pretty severe weather this afternoon until 11:00 p.m. You know when you get a knock on your door at 9:00 a.m. from your camp host who says “be prepared”, to take things seriously. Pat is such a nice guy and genuinely concerned about his fellow camper’s safety. We would consider ourselves to have made a new friend. I’d say he’s definitely banana muffin worthy!
We had plans to tour the Tabasco Factory today. But when Pat said they were closing the schools in the area due to the impending violence of the storm, we decided just staying put was the best idea; better to be safe than sorry, though the Tabasco plant’s brick building sounded like a safer place to be than in a flimsy trailer.
We of course were disappointed that this imminent storm decided to ruin our day but what are you gonna do? Our entertainment instead was listening to the soothing sounds from a variety of birds chirping and the light rain being echoed off the Palmettos. Let’s just keep it to that and not the sounds of a violent storm, shall we?
Jeff was GLUED to weather news all day long. The weather systems kept changing, moving either to the northeast of us, delaying our effects of the storm. There was really nothing to speak of in the way of weather channels where we were, so Jeff scoured the internet to see what he could see. Our friend from 5:00 on, when the “fireworks” were really supposed to start, was @RyanHallY’all on YouTube. I think with over a million subscribers and 30,000 people watching at the time we were tuned in, says enough. He is a professional weather analyst and storm chaser based in eastern Kentucky and really knows his stuff. He had a live feed, streaming for 10 hours straight, with barely any time to pee or eat a slice of pizza. He was on it, down to what streets should “take shelter” immediately.
At around 7:30 p.m. with the winds picking up speed and the rain increasing, we decided to bring in the slides on the trailer, just in case anything fell on them that would compromise being able to put them back in when we leave on Friday. We also packed up our backpacks with a few necessities in case we had to leave, including a few snacks and water. With our cozier quarters, we continued to watch minute by minute, the lightning increasing and the thunder rolling, until we got the text alarm on our phone, “Take shelter immediately. Tornado is imminent”. With the deluge of rain and the never ending lightning, we got in the truck to head to the entrance station…..the only sturdy building in the park. It was locked up. In fact, when we pulled up, there was already a van parked in the very spot I thought would be good to take shelter……under the covered pass-thru entrance. The comfort stations were all made of wood, providing little to no protection other than offering a place to get out of the rain. Being out in the middle of nowhere in the swamps, there really is no shelter, no plan for this campground. With a very quick discussion, Jeff and I decided the safest place to be was in our steel cage of a truck, buckled in…..Hank would protect us. All I could think about was the truck getting lifted in the movie “Twister”. But it was way better than staying inside an aluminum framed trailer. The unnerving part was not being able to see a thing except the flashes of light, hoping we wouldn’t see a tornado coming our way until it was too late. So we just sat like sitting ducks for what seemed like forever, still tuned into Ryan’s channel, reporting about the many
tornadoes that were touching down along this weather system. And then it was over, just like that; the rain, the lightning and the wind. But was it really over?
After we saw the satellite imagery showing the storm to the northeast of us and no other weather system behind it, we returned to the trailer. With the many text messages from family and friends, we assured everyone that we were o.k. Jeff had later found out from the park ranger that a tornado did in fact touch down about 5 miles from the park, but with damage, if any, unknown. This would be the third tornado threat on our trip, two of which were warnings like this one. The last one was in Greenville, South Carolina, but with that one, we had a cinder block concrete bathroom right across from our campsite to seek shelter in. Big difference. And that warning came and went quickly. We went from a“seek shelter” alert to an “all clear” in just a few minutes.
With the coast clear, we could finally relax. Jeff, completely exhausted from all the worry, planning and staying alert, decided to turn in early, while I took comfort in talking to my sister on the phone, explaining the whole ordeal. Let’s just hope we don’t have a repeat performance for the remainder of the trip, or any time for that matter.