October 19, 2007 -- Nappanee, IN
That was it... just 2.2 miles! That's how far we were from the tornado that touched town on the east side of Nappanee last night at about 10:30pm... and, let me tell you, riding the storm out in the bus was like the old "E" ticket rides at Disney.
We were aware that heavy thunderstorms and tornadoes were a possibility last night... we even watched one line of storms come through. That first line kind-of split, with some of it going west and north, and the rest of it going east and north. When I went to bed about 9 or 9:30pm, there was another line of storms coming, but it looked weaker and like it too might split around us. Unfortunately, I was wrong and it built to much more.
About 10:15pm, I was awakened by the heaviest rain we've experienced since living in the camper -- an absolute deluge. The heavy rain was accompanied by high gusty winds too. The camper was a'rockin and a'rollin and I was starting to get a little concerned. The intensity built even more and then, vaguely, through the din of the storm, I heard the yowl of the city warning siren. I thought, oh sh**, I hope Dar didn't hear that... but she did. And her eyes were as big as baby-moon wheel covers on a '57 Chevy. "What do we do?" "Where do we go?" "It's too late, we'll just have to ride it out here." There's a little space between the closet and the bed on Dar's side, and she slid out of bed and filled that space. She was wedging herself in so when the storm picked us up and tossed us around, she'd have some chance at surviving. I, on the other hand, became very philosophic and fatalistic... if my number's up, it's up! If it's not, it's not! So why worry too much about it. Besides, what's the chance that a real tornado will actually touch down right here in Nappanee, especially in October when we have almost no tornadoes, ever? Right? Right? After just a few minutes at peak intensity, you could feel the storm subside. Dar, who has ESWP (extra sensory weather perception), said "It's over".
I didn't sleep much for the next hour or two. The storm did subside, but emergency vehicles with sirens screaming were going up and down the highway. And then the power went out. I know when the power goes out because my time/temp projection thing doesn't project when the power's not on, and I have to try to find my glasses each time I get up in the middle of the night so I can see what time it is. Morning approached slowly and in the dark.
Our wake-up alarm went off at 5am. Everything around us was dark. The power was still out. This isn't a good sign that we'll be able to get the last items on our list resolved and get this visit with Newmar wrapped up before the end of the day. But we had to get up and be ready. The power could come back on at any moment and they could be here for the bus right at 6am as scheduled. We just didn't know.
At about 6:15am, our service tech pulls up and we invite him in. It was then that we learned the extent of the damage in Nappanee caused by the storm last night. Because the power was out, they sent anyone who made it to work home. The city and county had declared a state of emergency and asked all businesses to cancel operations for the day. But we lucked out as the small paint repair we needed done was actually done in the next small town to the west, Bremen. They were taking the bus there for painting and should have it back just after noon.
After a small breakfast we drove as close as we could get to the damaged area of town, then walked the rest of the way. It may have been an average tornado as tornadoes go, but the devastation is something to see. There were three RV or Mobile Home plants owned by Fairmont Homes that were heavily damaged or destroyed. A bunch of their finished inventory... brand-spanking new travel trailers... were picked up and tossed about. (There are pictures on our online photo collection.) In addition, a number of homes in a nearby subdivision were heavily damaged. I did get pictures of a small apartment building that was torn apart. Many peoples lives were jumbled up that day... but no one was killed or seriously hurt.
Our camper was finished about 1pm. We signed off on the work, went out to a celebratory lunch, and then drove to Elkhart to kill the afternoon.
What a day. Glad it's over.
We head south tomorrow.