Monday, March 02, 2009

Hell Trifecta

Hale.
Hail.
Hell.

Friday was really ominous here in West Alabama. Severe weather began to manifest mid-morning and by noon it was pouring. I always get nervous in winter when warm weather is sent packing by a cool front, and their battleground is a thunderstorm. Like Celie said in "The Color Purple," "It be lookin' like twister weather."

Shubutta and I were planning to drive down to Mobile for my niece's 13th birthday party, and wanted to leave Friday night. It's nearly 4 hours by car so having 2 nights to spend always makes it a little more worthwhile. But the forecast was scary so I rang her to tell her I thought perhaps we should wait until Saturday morning.

Around 3:15 Friday afternoon I was pleased we'd made that call as there was rotation spotted near our office and we were required to seek shelter in our "safe place." I'm now a safety warden for my area of the building so I got to step into action which was a rather daunting task. Once the warning was lifted, about 30 minutes later, I got a text indicating the weather was clearing, so we decided to leave for Mobile as planned.

About 10 minutes into our drive south I sensed danger. It was raining harder than I can ever recall and it was dark and threatening. Still we pressed on. The drive to Mobile is VERY rural and as we entered Hale County, I started thinking it would be better to turn around because a lack of phone coverage and my itty-bitty Honda Fit could certainly have seen me and Shu-Shu blown to smithereens with nary a bread crumb left behind.

A low-lying area probably 10 minutes outside Faunsdale finally got my hackles up. Until that point I'd just been guarded, optimistic that surely we were about to drive out of it. The water on the road was getting so deep so fast that I was having to drive 40 mph and I did begin to panic over flash-flooding. I knew the road well enough to know we were about to rise over a hill so fortunately that scenario remained behind us but was replaced, instead, by hail.

As we got near the stop sign at Highway 80, it began to fall so hard and with such force that I remained at the stop sign for probably 10 minutes. It wasn't large hail but it sounded like we were being assaulted by AK47's. We couldn't hear each other speak and for a brief moment it slacked so I crossed the intersection and entered into Faunsdale proper.

At that point the wind and rain picked up so hard and the hail regained its fortitude that we were forced to pull over in a church parking lot. The wind on the road's surface was blowing the water so hard that it looked like smoke - even with my fog and lights set to bright. From this vantage point I could see the wind blowing down the highway and it reminded me of the hurricanes I've lived through so, of couse, I began to think May-Day.

People often marvel at how I seem to know someone everywhere and this was true in Faunsdale. I was very near the farm of some friends and rang to see if they were there so we could seek shelter. I knew I'd likely get voicemail, and by the time we got to their highway things started to slack significantly. In fact, 4 miles later when we hit Dayton it stopped raining and the rest of the 2.5 hour drive was clear as a bell.

I asked Shu at one point if the forecast she read indicated severe weather that far down and we deduced that she'd interpreted just the prediction for Tuscaloosa. All's well that ends well, right? It's hard to keep this in mind when you're basically sitting still holding each other's hand and realizing you need a safe option.

Safety first, amigos ... have a safe week!

p.s. Miraculously there was no hail damage to Banzai.

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