Ice Cream Cones & Dirt Roads: How I Survived My First Tornado
I’ve always been fascinated with the weather. I grew up in South Florida and our weather conversations were always about … hurricanes. Moving to Alabama in 1999 opened my eyes to all the variants of severe weather. However, I experienced a tornado way before moving to Alabama.
Let’s go back to summertime in the early 80s. We took a family vacation every other year. Often we visited my mother’s side of the family in Van Wert, Ohio, and Monroeville, Indiana; both cities are super close to each other and on the borderline of the States, like 30 minutes apart.
My Ohio and Indiana cousins loved to call me the “city” girl. [Tosses hair back] Often you would find my cousins chasing me around the farm all while I was wearing my K-Mart cross-body purse. They would push me into the dirt & gravel road, leave me alone with cows, and trick me into feeding the pigs.
We always stayed with my Aunt Darlene in Indiana and went back and forth to Van Wert. Her house we nestled in the farmland, corn on one side, barns with cows, pigs, and more, and then a huge pond behind all of that. It was a 2-story house with a big basement. I loved it because I could play with my slinky on the steps.
One late afternoon we met my family at the local buffet for an early dinner. Farmers love their early dinners. [This is something that I could get behind] Then afterward, we went to play games and visit at my Uncle Francis's house.
[This is an important part of the story] Earlier that day, Aunt Darlene promised me an ice cream cone from my favorite soda shop after game night. I believe this was to make up for the torture from my cousins pushing me down all the time.
[I had that ice cream cone on my mind the whole day.]
While playing games, the floor model TV was on and a special weather statement interrupted the TV program. Aunt Darlene got worked up and said we needed to leave soon to beat the tornadoes.
My Dad: TORNADOES ??????????????????
Me: Are we still stopping for ice cream on the way back?
Darlene: Yes, Bud. We will be fine. We will be in the basement.
Me: What about my ice cream cone?
Darlene: If we leave now, we can get ice cream and be home in time.
And we were off …
Sure enough, we stopped and got MY ice cream cone. It tasted like Jesus touched the hem of the person who made it. Apparently, everyone else in the car got one too. We made it a quick stop and were back in the big ole car [it was like it was a tank.]
Aunt Darlene was driving.
I was enjoying my ice cream cone.
I was in the front middle and mom was in the front passenger seat.
In the back, it was Uncle Clifford, middle seat cousin Ray, and then my Dad.
We were on the road for a little bit.
Everything was fine until we hit the DIRT ROAD that took us to the farm.
Darlene stopped the car and told everyone to roll down the windows and to be quiet.
[Remember both of my parents are deaf, so I had to relay the messages]
You could hear the winds churning.
You felt the eeriness on your skin.
It was getting dark but the sky was a weird black and army green color.
[I later found out that Darlene was deciding to see if we could make it home in time to get to the basement. Or to take shelter at the house that was on the dirt road that had their garage open and light on. Apparently, that’s s sign you can take shelter with them.]
By now, I was about halfway done with my ice cream cone.
She made her decision, we were going for it.
Darlene grabbed my ice cream cone and tossed it out the window. My mother tossed hers too. Dad started praying some serious Hail Marys in the back seat. She hit the gas.
[That night, I learned the phrase “you drive like a bat out of hell.”]
Let's get back to the ice cream cone, still, 40+ years later, I still don't know why my ice cream cone was tossed out the window.
As we got closer to the farmhouse, the winds were picking up, the rain became more intense. As we got to the entrance road of the house, Darlene said calmly the “tornado was close.” She parked, everyone jumped out, got in the house, and immediately headed to the basement. Then we went into an extra shelter room in the basement.
[I’ve never seen my mother run that fast in my life.]
I’m not gonna lie, I was scared as hell.
Once we got settled in the room. I had so many questions.
What is a tornado?
Is it like a hurricane?
Why didn’t we know it was coming?
Are we going to die?
Everyone was quiet and I just sat right next to my Dad.
You could tell it was getting closer. My heart was beating really fast. Mom and Dad kept asking me what it sounded like. (Remember my parents are deaf). It was a weird sound, like a roar and a vacuum plus a train.
Then the sound was drowned out by the rain.
It was at that moment; that I realized that ...
I survived my first tornado.
Darlene was listening to the radio (see local radio matters) and there were several rounds of possible severe weather headed our way. But, we had a break, so we could go upstairs, use the bathroom, get some snacks and come back down.
Not me, I sat on the steps just looking out the door that was at the bottom of the flight of stairs between the house level and basement. I think that is when I truly fell in love with severe weather.
It was like I was in a trance.
The next line of storms was getting closer; I watched the winds bend over the corn stalks. The lighting made the sky beautiful. I was still a little bit scared. Luckily that night there were no more tornadoes but we sheltered to remain safe.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. Do you have any crazy weather stories? If so, send me a message on our free app. I would love to hear them.