March 3, 2012

Palm Sunday 1965 and Leap Day 2012

Courtesy NOAA Archives, Indiana 1965
The storms this week packed quite a wallop throughout the Ohio River Valley and parts south and east causing a number of fatalities.
My town had an F1 tornado on Leap Day, and a friend's street is pretty wiped out. She sustained little damage, but what she reported on Facebook this morning is that her neighbors had a lot more damage. The really awful part is that looters have now come to the neighborhood. Her neighbors had purchased new lumber to rebuild, and looters stole it. What kind of world do we live in? How desperate can people be to hit someone who is already down?
The Weather Prognosticators did an excellent job all day yesterday as the storms blew through. From about 11 a.m. CST until dinner, they stayed on the air continuously as storm raged in the three states around us. Several commented that it was like the giant outbreak around Xenia, Ohio, in 1974.
It also reminded me of Palm Sunday 1965 which is historically second in damage and destruction to the Xenia outbreak. An Ohio history web site recalls that the April 11, 1965 tornado killed 256 people across three states.
We went to see "Mary Poppins" that day in the large Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, Ind. Because of the day's significance, I remember many details I wouldn't normally remember. The tickets were $4.00, an outrageous fee when our little hometown Kent theatre still charged only fifty cents per ticket.
We met family friends there, a couple and their three daughters. I remember seeing them walk down the street as they each had new plaid tennis shoes on. My parents made me wear plain Red Ball Jets and I was miffed about it.
The movie was, of course, wonderful.
The drive home from the theatre, however, was also memorable because I was so frightening. The sky was the color of mustard and huge wall clouds hung low along Indiana Highway 14 as we rushed the thirty miles home in our Belair sedan. There was a sickening stillness to the air, and it was too warm for April. (Now we experience this strange warmness in February and March.)
The minute we arrived home, it began to rain and hail fiercely. Our little yellow prefabricated home was on a slab so we huddled in the small home's one bathroom until the roar passed. The power went off, but it was still light after the storms passed and neighbors came out in the street telling what they knew. My brother and I gathered up hailstones, but with the freezer off we just tossed them around.
Wherever you live, there are always weather issues. This is a strange part of the country to live in, however, because we've experienced earthquake, floods, tornado, drought, ice and snow storms, and even the wrath of Hurricane Ike which blew up this way. (I was interviewing a commercial insurer the other day for a business magazine article and he told me that was one of the largest claim cycles his firm had seen in a while.) Regardless, there are always weather issues wherever you are. I'm thankful that, this time, my friends and family were passed over, and pray for those who weren't so lucky.
Update an hour after original post: life is sometimes stranger than fiction. After writing this post, I decided to take my friend a fruit salad. While the scene I saw just two miles from my house didn't rival Henryville's devastation, it was devastating enough. I could not believe it. My friend's house was relatively untouched (made of strong Bedford stone) but most of the houses around her were not livable. She also told me that her grandfather was killed in the very Palm Sunday tornado I discussed above. Please pray and send good wishes to my friend "R" who needs your prayers, and her neighbors also.