one of these instances occured two weeks ago, on a friday evening, just after i left work and started my short little drive home.
just before 5pm, my boss came out and casually mentioned a hailstorm and trees down from wind damage 20+ miles north of Columbus, but looking out the windows here at work, i saw nothing but blue skies.
so i stayed until 5pm right on the button, as i always do, before making my way out to my car...skies still blue even. somehow, the driver's side door was jammed shut and wouldn't open, so after a few frustrating minutes of trying to get it open, i resorted to just climbing through the passengers side.
settled into the driver's seat, i still couldn't quite figure out why the door wouldn't open, but decided it was something i could spend time figuring out later.
i made it about 1/4 mile down the road and the sky changed from blue to grey to green literally right before my eyes. it's the kind of sky you hear tornado victims talk about after one has ripped through their neighborhood.
and then the trees started swaying back and forth quite violently up ahead, but there were no sirens alerting anyone of any tornadic activity.
i got an instant feeling of panic. there was no rain, no thunder, no lightening, just incredible wind.
at this point, i was only 2 blocks from work. instead of turning around i pulled into a little strip mall parking lot to collect my thoughts. should i turn around and head back to work? or crawl back out the passenger's side and go into one of the stores and take shelter until it passes?
i ultimately decided crawling back out was entirely too much hassle and i was i going to brave it and drive the short distance home.
so i pulled back out onto Broad St. and made it another 2 blocks up the road with my eyes fixed more on the violent dancing of the trees, than the road itself and i said a quick prayer asking for traveling mercies. just as those thoughts left my head, i thought one of these trees is going to fall.
split seconds later, a massive tree fell onto the roadway right in front of me. not even gonna lie, i just about soiled my pants. i have anxiety just thinking about it.
it felt like a dream.
i was slightly past an intersection so after screeching on my brakes, i quickly did a sharp turn onto the side road with massive amounts of adrenaline rushing through my veins and tried to make my way 4 blocks eastward back to work.
only problem? there was no way to get back to work!
branches continued to crack and trees continued to fall. i watched up ahead as branches flew through the air and trees snapped and fell one after another like a domino train. my car was being pelted left and right by branches. not only did i have the fear of a tree falling ON my car, but now i'm scared to death that branches are going to start smashing through the windshield like a torpedo.
every turn i made i was met by incredibly large trees down, powerlines draping the roadways, and drivers manuvering their vehicles through yards to get around the downed powerlines and as far away from the chaos as possible.
the only thing i could think of was to find an area that had no large trees within a distance of being able to hit my car should they fall. next to impossible in this particular neighborhood, but i do remember parking my car for a whole 15 seconds before my natural fight/flight response said 'get the heck outta here!'
i can't quite recall the maze of twists and turns i had to make to get there, but i did eventually make my way back to work. just as i got back into the building the skies let loose and the power went out.
i crawled back out the passenger's door and went back in to check on the others in the building before sitting myself in the lobby to call family to make sure they were all okay.
after waiting 25 minutes or so for the storm to pass on through, i decided it was time to get myself going home for reals this time. thanks to my boss getting the latch loose on my driver's door i didn't have to crawl back through the passenger's side.
i made my way, heading westward on Broad, knowing i would be diverted through the neighborhood once i got to that intersection where the tree had fallen.
little did i know that when i came upon that intersection i would be met with nearly a hundred people standing around and firetrucks and ambulances littering the roadway.
as i turned the corner, i could then see more clearly the reason why.
that tree that fell.......well, it fell ON THE CAR that was traveling right in front of me the first time i left work. it was such a large tree that i couldn't see that it had actually fallen on the vehicle trapping the driver inside. here, i thought the tree had fallen between our two vehicles and they had narrowly escaped.
i quickly pulled my car over and parked on the side of the roadway to join the others watching the rescue efforts. i couldn't help being overwhelmed with the thought...'that could have been me.'
just to give you an idea of the size of this tree--it was so massive that it fell across all 5 lanes of Broad Street and covered the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road from which it fell.
from all the conversations i was listening to, it sounded as if the driver was going to be okay. she was so incredibly lucky that the tree fell where it did. i ended up landing craddled in the space where the windshield meets the hood of the car. a split second later and it would have fallen on the hood of her vehicle, likely killing her instantly.
she was taken to the hospital with no apparent external injuries. talk about a story to tell.
it took dozens of rescue workers using special equipment over an hour to brace the tree and cut the trunk and branches apart that were trapping her inside her vehicle. then another 30 minutes or so to cut her vehicle apart to get her out. they had to cut the vehicle into 4 pieces to do so.
and all i could think was 'that could have been me.'
had i not stayed until 5pm on the button....that could have been me.
had my door not been jammed delaying my departure....that could have been me.
had i not pulled into the strip mall parking area to collect my thoughts....that could have been me.
i'm so thankful that wasn't me.
it turns out we had a rare windstorm called a derecho that crept up out of nowhere sweeping through Central Ohio, bringing with it severe thunderstorms and windspeeds topping 75 mph. the damage that it caused was widespread and absolutely unbelieveable, even seeing it with my own two eyes.
my dad came home that night to find seven trees in his yard down.
hundreds of thousands were without power for days on end. finding gas stations with power to fill up your vehicle were few and far between. finding ice and bottled water in stock felt like hitting the lottery.
and i've decided that after two major storms knocking out power to most of our surrounding communities for a weeks warrants us getting serious about having an emergency survival kit. sure we have everything we'd need in an emergency, but it would be so much more convenient to have it all together in one large storage container at the ready for the next major storm that decides to greet us.