Another “Almost Was”

Used to be a phrase among my particular hippie circle: “That almost was an almost was.”

That is to say, it was a close call.

This line of storms that has caused all sorts of mayhem, from strings of tornados to floods to blizzards, has been washing over western North Carolina, where I am stuck at a campground waiting for a service appointment on Wednesday.

Yesterday I was studying the sky, watching a wall cloud slowly rotating and thinking, why, that could develop into a tornado if there was more wind shear.  I was glad it was going away from where I was, in case things progressed in a bad way.

So imagine my surprise when my mother called, just as I was leaving the vet’s office in Asheville.

As usual, no matter where I am when she calls, she screamed,

“I’m in Asheville, why?”

“Can’t you hear the radio???”  She always has the radio on.  Always.

I couldn’t hear the radio, but I could hear the unmistakable National Weather Service robot voice gravely announcing something or other.

“What’s happening, Mom?  Why is there a weather alert?”


“I’m in Asheville, why?”

“You stay there.  You just stay there.  Do you have a strong building you can take shelter in?”

Then I knew what the alert was: tornado.

“Is it a watch or a warning?”


“No, I can’t.  Tell me what it says.”

Finally she calmed down enough to repeat verbatim what the alert message said.  The tornadic radar signal showed significant rotation, moving north at 30 mph (!!!), with the campground where I’ve been staying directly in its path.  I thought of all those people in their campers, motor coaches, and especially a young family in a flimsy pop-up, all out in an open field.

“Is it on the ground?”

No, not yet.

“Well, I’ll just stay here in Asheville tonight.  One or another of the stores will let me stay in their parking lot.”

Mom was relieved.

I had to replenish my supply of canned nutrients, so I went to the nearest grocery store and stocked up.  The manager kindly gave me permission to park my camper overnight.

I got on my NOAA weather app, and sonofabitch, there it was, the characteristic  bright red “hook” signature of a developing tornado.  My weather warnings app gave the usual urgent instructions for taking shelter, getting as low as possible with as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.

I thought ruefully of the photos of the aftermath of the F4 tornado that hit East Texas the day before yesterday.  No walls left to protect anyone.  Amazing that only…I think 12 or 14…people were killed, although there are still some missing.

This is the same storm front that spawned that string of 11 tornados, in December, for crying out loud.

I don’t care what people say the cause is…when it’s 70 degrees in December, and the weather has gone crazy, it’s global warming.

I’ve been studying tornados ever since I lived in the Mysterious Midwest and had run-ins with several.  One was huge and threw a good deal of Toledo, Ohio into Lake Erie.  One went over our heads after I convinced my then-husband to please stop watching it and jump in this handy ditch with our infant son. 

And one buzzed through my yard at night and snatched the kids’ trampoline.  It ended up in a soybean field several miles away.  I found that out when the farmer showed up with our crumpled trampoline in the back of his truck.

“This yours?”


“Thought so.”

The kids dragged it out of his truck, took it apart and put it back together again.  It was fine.  They launched each other off of it until one of them broke his arm, then I took it apart and hauled it to the dump.

My son grew phobic about tornados.  In the spring, the sky was full of rotating cells.

His step-brother used to torment him:  Look!  A tornado!  There’s another one!

My son leaned over and threw up in the manure spreader.  For years after that, every time the sky looked threatening, he got sick.

When I heard there was a potential tornado heading for Marion, of course I wanted to jump in my van and go chase it…But it was getting dark, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a tornado in the dark.  Maybe a tsunami. 

So here I sit in the grocery store parking lot.  Atina’s head rests on my knee.  She snores, oblivious to the fierce wind and rain. 

The radar shows a nasty squall line, but nothing to get excited about.

But when it comes to weather, you never really know.

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  1. Hope you stay safe my friend

  2. I would have be frightened out of my shoes if I had been in a camper such as yours. Where could you go to seek better shelter when you moving around in a camper?

    Personally I am scared out of my wits of a tornado. I have heard one go over head and not touch down and it sounded like a train. I have seen one moving low and traveling in a north east direction. And when I was 14-15 years old a tornado killed about 100 people in Waco. the town where I have lived since 1955. I used to fear spring and now I fear all year long since there is no special time of the year for the formation of a tornado. I just wish that I had a storm cellar and still might have a safe room installed in my house.

    • Whoa, you were in the Waco one? You have good reason to be afraid!!! If I were you I’d definitely invest in a safe room. Traveling has its hazards, for sure. That’s why I keep my eye on the NOAA radar. To tell you the truth, as terrifying as tornados are, I’m more afraid of flash floods. In Tornado Alley, as I’m sure you know, the saying is, “If you hear a train but you don’t see any tracks, get to low ground.” Out West in the canyon country (where I was nearly killed in a flash flood) it’s the opposite: “if you hear a train but you don’t see any tracks, get to high ground.”

      • I was not living in Waco at the time of the tornado. I lived on a farm( I was 14-15 years old then) that was about roughly 22 miles from Waco. I remember the sky to the West looking greenish black which is another sign of a likely tornado or severe hail storm.

        While ‘m at it, I don’t see a like button for other folks comments either and there is no reply button showing. Send a note to WP and they can probably fix the problem. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. There’s a lot of shit rite now that is out of our control
    To much I would say
    So now if it’s the weather
    One more Sonofabitch ain’t gona matter much I would say
    Unless of course you enjoy losing what’s left of yours or mines mind
    As long as you are safe then I would say that’s a plus
    Ok what about everybody else
    I see your point warming or colding
    So what else is there
    Oh my mistake Trump, what’s that spell
    You guess it another warming of sorts
    Or is that a melt down
    What is my point
    Sonofabitch close call

    • LOL Sheldon, you are a master of black humor. I want to know who would put their confidence in a maniac with an orange combover, but what the hell, what the hell…the world has gone mad…

  4. When I lived in Houston, I remember one hurricane that came very close to my apartment… and it’s true, it sounds just like a loud train. But what’s not mentioned is the amazing amount of air pressure… I thought my head was gonna explode. Thankfully, I didn’t throw up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. You funny lady. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve only thrown up a few times in my whole life, so no worries. And since I don’t have the option to like your comments, here’s your LIKE!

  6. No, the like button doesn’t show up, and neither does the Reply button. I usually come across that problem when I’m not following someone, but I’m following you, so I don’t know what the problem is. I suggest you contact WordPress and complain, because when I complained to the CDC, they really listened to me (not!). ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Josh Wrenn

     /  December 29, 2015

    Stay safe. My friend’s brother lost their house on one of those just today? Yesterday? Something, I don’t know.

  8. I used to have a HUGE fear of tornadoes when I was younger. If I heard any loud weird noise, such as plane overhead, I’d sprint into the house. Even if there wasn’t a cloud in the sky I’d be terrified that it was a tornado.

  9. Hello , this is insane. I can not even imagine a hurricane or a tornado as we live in plains. Even heavy rains have the capacity to disturb us a lot, leave aside tornadoes.

    Stay safe. Prayers to you and Atina.

  10. I grew up in AVL and we always felt like the mountains protected us from most natural disasters, like hurricanes and tornadoes or flooding. Now, with the global warming (that doesn’t exist..wink), there’s no telling what disasters might visit my beloved mountains. I’m glad you found a place to park and are alright.

  11. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  December 29, 2015

    Yikes! Nothing like being in a trailer during tornado weather. Trailers are like magnets for tornadoes!
    I’ve been in a few, with one mostly destroying the motel we rushed into only minutes before. I’ve enjoyed some hurricanes while living in Florida also. Mother Nature has some powerful outbursts sometimes.
    I can say I’ve experienced almost all forms of outbursts from her. The only one I’ve not is a landslide. Obviously, not gonna happen in flatland Illinois ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Okay, I unfollowed you and then followed you again… sorry, no difference.

  13. Scary. Instead of tornados, we have firestorms and the occasional earthquake.

    • Earthquakes I can deal with. I lived where there are earthquakes several times a week (Wasach Front, in Utah) and kind of got used to them, though it freaked out the dogs. I experienced a 6.9 in Costa Rica and my bed was rolling all over the floor and I thought, they say you’re supposed to get under the bed but this bed is moving so fast…firestorms I could not handle. I could not deal with a firestorm, nope.

  14. We’ve had days in December when it’s been 15 degrees centigrade. Although right now what we’re mostly getting is wind and rain. The weather is completely nuts. Global warming can only be the cause for it. I wish big businesses and governments would wake up to this.

    Please stay safe because if over there is anything like over here, it’s not over yet.

    • Gor blimy, I didn’t know you are also having crazy weather over there. I should pay more attention to global weather.

      Yes, global warming is real, and getting realer all the time. It’s playing havoc with the oceans, and of course we are too. But you know, I saw a paper from, I think the World Health Organization, that said that most, and I mean most, of the carbon emissions are due to people who still use wood to cook on, or charcoal, even peat in your Northern regions.

      My personal take on global warming is that historically the world has gone through cycles of warming >>jungles, and cooling >>glaciers and die-off of previous plants and animals. At one time the earth was mainly populated by Trilobites. Eventually they became so numerous that they ate all the food that grew on the Earth, and eventually died out themselves. That is why, if you go looking for fossils, you will find lots of trilobites, because they literally covered the globe. So if you put this into a human context, you will see how we are using up our resources, poisoning out food sources, and struggling to control the population. Hah.

      I don’t know if it will happen in our generation, but not too long from now. To put it into a Biblical perspective, after God make the flood he promised Noah that he would never do anything like that again. But like the generation of the Flood, the people became so immoral and filthy minded that God felt that this world he had created had somehow gone awry, so he had to wipe the slate clean and start over.

      I could go on about this Parsha (we divide the Torah into 52 weekly portions, called Parshas, and this story comes from Parsha Noah) forever, because it is so packed full of messages.

      Anyway, I see that this generation has become more and more corrupt and hedonistic. I think we are headed for the Noah experience, somehow or other. Better start building that Ark!

  15. I liked this: “I donโ€™t care what people say the cause isโ€ฆwhen itโ€™s 70 degrees in December, and the weather has gone crazy, itโ€™s global warming.”

    Not many people stop to consider that most of us are prohibited from acting on what we can see with out own eyes by poor people that spew corporate newspeak.

    More weird than the refusal to recognize science is that the people most likely to die from climate change are the ones in the way.

    • The thing is, I am skeptical that we have the ability to reverse climate change simply by mending our ways. Whether this represents one of the eternal natural cycles of warming and freezing, or whether it’s man made, or a combination, I think it’s past the point of reversal.

      For one thing, and an extremely important thing, humans have ruined the two biggest “carbon sinks,” the oceans and the Amazon Basin, which were responsible for recycling carbon via the microorganisms that have now been killed off due to whaling, over fishing, and deforestation. I saw an amazing TED talk on how whale poop feeds organisms that suck up carbon. Because of the devastation of the whale population, this whole cycle has been wiped out, along with the food chain that depended on whale poop to survive. This cannot be mended. So it’s a case of too little, too late for the human made part, and indeed one could see this as part of a natural cycle, as we are part of Nature, even as techno-centric beings.

      • I wonder how many ‘intelligent’ life forms this planet has hosted.

        How many times has a species gotten to the brink of creating a global identity in preparation to colonizing other planets only to destroy itself because it lacked the most important skill of a disciplined intellect: the ability to have fact based discussions in order to find reasonable solutions to obvious problems.

        I just read that software companies and fast food companies funded scientific research that produced bogus claims that were dutifully reported by the media and the department of public health without questions.

        A species that superstitiously believes that the worst people will use an exploitative economic system to perform acts of altruism cannot possibly survive.


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