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Tuesday, September 15

stormin' the mid west

Nebraska, I hate to say it, but your endless flat fields of corn and brush can be boring. We decided to consider them calming and zen-like, but, truth be told, I read a lot. Around 8 we decided to stop at the next town for the night. We were enjoying the dramatic sky. To our left, clear sky with the beginnings of a golden sunset over the fields. To our right, black clouds with flashes of lightning buried deep within. The ragged edge of the black clouds inched over to the gold and  the light show started in earnest. Rolling bands of lightning that lit the night. We were not yet alarmed. In fact, Russ was taking video.

Then all Hell broke loose and, as loathe I am to use such a hackneyed phrase, I gotta say it was exactly that. With no warning we were slammed with wind, hail, rain. It was like a body blow. The cars stopped dead in the road. Slowly, the drivers got their bearings and began to inch cautiously to a shoulder they could not see. We all stopped then and waited. The rain was so intense, the hail so thick, that the car became a cocoon. There was no light save the occasional lightning and the two red circles of the brake lights in front of us that looked like carnations through the ice. The car rocked. Russ inched forward and it was like driving over rocks. He stopped. The storm didn’t.

I was terrified. All I could think of was that a tornado was coming. We were on the border of Iowa and Nebraska, in the plains, in a violent storm. All I could see was Dorothy riding her bike with Toto in the basket. I saw cars spinning up into the clouds. I ran an endless reel of old movies showing people clinging desperately to door jambs and car doors, only to be swept away and found in trees later. Yes, it seems silly now, but I was out of my element. I can handle a blizzard, this was nature on attack. AT one point I told Russ to please stop inching forward and he said he wasn’t. the car was in park. It was the wind.

The storm seemed to never end. I was whimpering “Oh my God” over and over. I admitted to Russell that I was afraid. Really afraid. I never do that. I am the brave girl. The dogs were silent and still, their ears down. They huddled together. They never moved, never whimpered.  Russ was taking video.

After what seemed like forever, but was probably 5 minutes, there was enough of a lull that you could see out the windows again. A big truck went by and Russ pulled out to follow him. The road was coated with hail stones and it felt like we were riding over rumble strips. I was trembling and my heart was beating so hard I swear my t-shirt was moving to its beat.

When we finally checked into our room, I lay in the bed, taking deep breaths and both dogs came to lie beside me: Quincy tucked himself along my side, Oliver put his tiny paws on my shoulder and rested his head in my neck. I like to think they were soothing me, but it may have been a mutual comforting.

Emergency blasts came over the TV several times in the next few hours, but we were safe, warm, together. I am always thankful when that it the case, but never more than that night.

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