A Valley Girl’s Close Encounter of the Tornado Kind

This past Wednesday afternoon, my boyfriend, Alec, and I decided to head to the local Starbucks to do some reading and writing. The sky was pretty dark—but that’s typical of a June in Virginia—hot and humid in the morning, thunderstorm in the afternoon.

We had gone a few miles when giant raindrops began to pelt our windshield accompanied by increasingly strong winds. Branches and leaves blew past the windows, traffic lights swung violently, and our poor little Saturn coupe began to shutter in the face of the growing gale. Pulling up to an intersection we noticed a diagonal dark cloud directly above us lit up by a strange pink glow.

I turned to Alec; the word scarcely needed saying—Tornado.

Wordlessly, he swung the car around and we headed back. The storm quickly overtook us, flooding the windshield and reducing visibility to zero. We finally made it back and ran from the car to the house where Alec’s brother and mom hugged us in relief. But it was short-lived, the phone rang (the last call before we lost all service)—it was Alec’s little sister. Her afternoon activities had been canceled and she had been walking home when the storm hit. All around us large branches littered the sidewalk and street—and the storm was only getting worse.

Alec’s brother jumped into his car to find her, as Alec and I tried to calm his mother’s fears. A nearby cell tower must have succumbed to the storm at that point because our phones simultaneously died. There was nothing for it but to wait and hope for the best.

After what felt like an hour, a car swung into the driveway and Alec’s brother and sister ran towards the house.

It’s been two days and I still can’t believe our luck. No one was hurt and our house remained intact.

Our power was out but once the storm passed I was able to call my parents in California and get them to tell us the extent of the damage based on the news reports. The tornado had briefly touched down several miles away and while there were many injuries only one casualty was reported.

Our power is still out thanks a nearby tree’s collision with a telephone pole, but supposedly we’ll get it back tonight at 10pm.

At first life unplugged was fun, but now 48hrs later, candlelight is no longer novel, board games are now bored games, and planning my writing around the life of my pathetic laptop battery sucked from the start.

Being from the San Fernando Valley in CA I’m no stranger to natural disasters (wildfires, earthquakes—I actually lost my house in the ’94 quake, mudslides, etc) but this was my first tornado. Even though it was minuscule compared to those typical to the tornado alley states, I can honestly say that I fervently hope it’ll be my last.

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