May 31st, 2013, I found myself in the middle of a tornado.
Ever since I was a child the weather experts always warned about being in a car on elevated roads when a tornado is bearing down on you.
That Friday night in 2013, I was highly weather-aware and was confident that the tornado that formed near Yukon Oklahoma was heading north and away from me.
I even called my parents that live in Tucson to tell them not to worry about me. About the time I got off the phone with them the storm took a sharp turn south.
I got a call from my friend Nikki warning me to run. I had decided earlier not to run away from the storm and suddenly I was faced with the realization that the apartment that I live in would not survive a direct hit from the tornado the news was describing.
The weather forecaster said, “This is a groundscraper. You must be either underground, or you must get out of the way.”
So, I got in my car and headed south on I-35.
I-35 was a parking lot. I was maybe half a mile away from my apartment when I hear the cross-streets of where I live mentioned as the path of the tornado and it was heading directly toward me.
I pulled over to the shoulder of the bridge I was on as the storm intensified to get close to a concrete wall. Rain was pelting my little car horizontally as the wind strengthened.
Then about 100 yards in front of me I saw a power flash as wind ripped the lines out of Moore street lights, one after another.
I looked up to see large black debris floating above me about 30 feet off the ground. Twenty yards in front of me a large heavy construction barricade was effortlessly lifted into the sky and thrown across the highway.
My car started rocking and I began to hear what everyone describes as the signature sound of a tornado– a high pitched banshee howl that is similar to the sound of a freight train.
After decades of hearing that you should not be on an elevated roadway when a tornado was chasing you, there I was…
On an elevated roadway.
I was frightened more than ever before, but I knew if I didn’t do something my life was in jeopardy. So, I decided to take my little Nissan car off-road.
I jumped an embankment, crossed a side road and went over a curb to get my car up against the wall of the Central Church of Moore.
The storm was throwing branches and debris on top of car and I still didn’t feel safe, so I got out of the car and ran to a doorway that was covered and halfway below ground.
By that time a steady stream of people who were trapped on the highway had followed me, parked behind me on the lawn, and were huddling with me in the covered doorway.
People who were staying in the church heard the commotion and let us in. They were there to help with cleanup after the devastating May 20th tornado in Moore.
It was an ironic and fortuitous occurrence.
I would like to thank the staff at that church for helping me and, what may have been another 100 people that followed me off the highway, find shelter during the storm.
Amazingly, me, my car and my apartment made it through mostly unscathed.
You can see the track of the tornado in the image above. I was very lucky that the tornado weakened as it passed overhead, but I was right in the path of that monster.
I can tell you that the day after was a clear and beautiful day and that I had a focus and desire to achieve my goals more that I ever had before that dark night.