Thursday, June 5, 2008

6/5/08 Storms, Tornado Warnings, Extreme Weather Advisories

If you receive email updates: To see the photographs, click on the blue link "Malkoff's Grand Adventure" at the bottom of the email. From the blog: You may restart the slideshow by clicking on the arrow.

Leaving South Dakota was hard – Exceptionally hard -- Extremely hard.

We grew to love Western South Dakota. The five star park we stayed at was luxurious, there were amenities to spoil all of us – great WIFI, free movies, cafĂ© with fantastic fries and buffalo burgers, water aerobics, and spectacular dog parks and play areas. It was hard to say goodbye to our new friends Jack and Celia. The nightly thunder and lightning storms each night made the prairies a brilliant green.

The morning of our departure, I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a tractor. It’s never fun leaving a great location like Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills, but it was a real push to work out for the last time with my friends in the pool. The kids were great at getting the RV ready to roll and we hit the open road with a stormy looking sky ahead. We decided to take a short stop at Wall Drug, a frontier town themed group of stores founded in 1931, to experience some of their famous donuts and home-made ice cream. Even donuts didn’t make me feel better. My throat was raw and I was feeling quaky. When we started to see signs for a KOA near the 1880’s town of Murdo, 150 miles from where we started, I decided we were done traveling.

Wall Drug and Murdo SD Slideshow
Right after we got set up for the night, the skies opened up and we experienced an incredible storm that lasted most of the night. I felt horrible, but was glad to be off the road safely and dry. There was crappy cell reception so I had to stand outside getting eaten by bugs in the rain to talk to Mel. The next morning the campground was flooded and I wore water shoes to take the dog for her morning walk. There was a fun doggy play area with agility toys and she had a great time splashing in the water – good thing Portuguese Water Dogs have webbed feet!

We went to the 1880’s town for breakfast in the train depot and enjoyed a quick visit through the 30 authentic buildings that had been gathered from around South Dakota. It was wonderful to see school houses, jails, telegraph offices, saloons, and boarding houses with cowboy spur marks on the stairs. They had a nice collection of memorabilia from the movie “Dances with Wolves” and a scruffy cat that fell in love with Dave.

1880's Town Slideshow
Off again in the RV, heading toward menacing dark skies with our destination of Little Sioux City, it was a difficult drive fighting the wind and rain. We pulled off to get gas around 2:00 in the afternoon near Spencer, SD (170 miles from where we started) and I was greeted by a number of truck drivers that wanted to know where I was headed. When I said I was headed East on I90, the truckers were concerned and insisted that I not travel further into the 100 mph wind gusts ahead. The owner of the truck stop said that the alarm I kept hearing go off in the back was a weather warning and suggested I stay the night in their lot. (I didn’t know till later that in 1998 with similar weather patterns, the town of Spencer had been destroyed (close to 190 buildings), 6 people died, and hundreds were injured. No wonder everyone was so caring.)

When I called Mel on his cell phone to tell him I had chosen to stop for the night far from my destination, I could hear him sigh. To be fair to Mel, he has spend the last two months listening to me whine about unbelievable weather conditions and wind advisories, skinning my knees when I got knocked down by 65 mph winds in Wichita, sleet and snow outside Denver in late April when it was 80 degrees the previous day, a blizzard in Nebraska closing down all the roads in May, and daily thunder, lightning and flooding reports from South Dakota. He’d call me when he got back to the office where he could track the weather on the satellite maps for us since we didn’t have internet.

I had been listening to the local weather reports and I was aware that the weather conditions were worsening. But when Mel called back with a stressed voice telling me what I’d be expecting in the next hour, I knew it was serious. I had shut all the blinds in the west side of the RV facing the gas station for privacy. I almost fainted when Mel told me to open them to tell him what I saw. I had thought the pounding storm with the wind gusts couldn’t get any worse – but this black line of storm clouds was advancing at a pace that took my breath away and terrorized Dave and Sarah.

We were reasonably sure that the tornadoes were twenty miles south of us, and if the tornado siren went off that we could sit in the gas station’s cooler with the staff.

But for a severe thunder storm, we decided to ride out the advancing storm in the 27,000 pound RV instead of the flimsy metal-sided gas station situated in the middle of acres of corn fields. Mel instructed us to instantly bring in the slides to give the RV more stability and we left the tow car hooked to the RV. Dave and Sarah packed emergency bags in case we needed to leave the RV. Mel stayed on the line reporting the weather updates as the wave after wave of storms raged over our location. The gas station flooded as inches of rain poured from the skies. In an hour the worst of it had passed leaving a steady rain that lasted the night.

The next morning it was lightly raining and we were glad to be safe and sound. The only storm damage was to a small window in the back. Driving down the freeway we were stunned to see the impromptu waterways and lakes that had been farmland the day before. We laughed at a pair of ducks taking advantage of a new pond.

We were relieve to leave South Dakota and the worst weather we've seen. We were headed to Omaha, Nebraska 250 miles away and planned to be set up in a campsite before the next storm hit.

1 comment:

JenPB said...

I'm SO glad you were able to stay high and dry. Those truckers are quite the source of good travel info, aren't they?

So glad WE weren't there...our tent would NEVER have kept us dry in this kind of situation. Considering a platform...and portable icebox for safety. ;)