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Ruffin Tornado (4/15/2018)

Leading up to the Greensboro Tornado

Oh yes, the Tornado came up 29 from Greensboro through Ruffin and into Danville and did a lot of damage along the way. I feel so sorry for those people who had their homes destroyed or damaged and then had to deal with the torrential rains (almost 4 inches) and then the freezing weather (32 degrees) and wind-chill and the cold, windy, cloudy day that followed with no heat or electricity and no way to get out. A few people were smashed inside their cars (either by huge trees falling on them or by mobile homes picked up and  dropped on them from across the road). It blew up really fast and the warnings were 5 minutes behind it all the way. It got here at least 5 minutes ahead of the news.
Now, the weather reports had mentioned an escalating chance of storms for a number of days in advance but those chances started really low and marginal and crept up minimally, right up until the horse was already out of the chute and everyone was running around panicking after it was already too late. Even the weather station got hit and was unable to broadcast any warnings until it had passed and they could get everybody out of the basement and set up makeshift cameras.

Prayers are Answered

I had already prayed about it earlier that day, just because I’ve seen spring-time weather get really wild around here. And the Good Lord had me turn on the computer sometime just after the weather station got out of the basement and began to give warnings. They said it was bad and even if you had never taken shelter in your life, do so now. So I moved some card tables from in front of the basement door, put on my shoes and got two flashlights and it was here in the backyard just that quick. From Greensboro. I know because I peeped out the back door and there it was. The main big one was rumbling up US 29 from my vantage point, it looked like it was rumbling straight across the schoolyard at the old Ruffin Schoolhouse. Well, that is down the hill to the creek (just below the pond) and up the hill on the other side to the top of the ridge. About a half a mile, maybe; mile-and-a-half to the school. And it was already Rolling on up North 29, so I just stood there and watched it because I could tell it looked like it was going to pass on by.
It was so ferocious looking where the tornado was but it was so calm, perfectly still even, on the back-porch where I was standing. And I was standing there in marvel, thinking about how God had answered my prayers in such a dramatic fashion… to be so perfectly calm, so close to such powerful destruction.

Suddenly Things Get Weird

That’s when everything began to change and get weird: things just lost their gravity and it felt like everything wanted to rise up off the ground. A slight breeze had begun to blow and now it started to pick up but it didn’t get really fierce or anything (because we’ve had straight-line winds to come through before; they came right across the pasture and through the Pecan Grove splintering 100 year old Walnut trees like tooth-picks and laying everything down across its path). No, it wasn’t like any wind I’ve ever seen before…it was just a strong breeze. But it was kind of an up-draft breeze and you could feel it, like everything just wanted to magically rise up off the ground.  Stranger and stranger it got with that weird little up-draft breeze growing stronger and stronger til all of a sudden trees started cracking all over the place: you could hear loud, harsh cracking that started down around the creek-bottom and moved diagonally through the woods in a sequence. The cracking came through once, and then it came through again and then it happened. A shirt-tail funnel appeared in the sky to my right about 200 feet in front of me and dragged itself down out of the clouds, rose up a little, then reformed back down; just like those little shirt-tail tornado spikes that you see in pictures from a distance where the main big one is in the middle and around it you have all these little ‘sprouts’.

A Little Behind the Ball

Well, I’m standing out on the back-porch with my flashlight in one hand and the phone in the other trying to call the neighbors and let them know there’s a tornado warning and all the trees are cracking all around and I’m standing there staring out at the woods trying to figure out why they are making that loud, heavy cracking sound; because there wasn’t any wood splintering off or flying around and none of them were falling over. And behold: suddenly a little spin-off tornado descends almost on top of my head.
Well, again; I’m standing on the back porch trying to figure out what’s going on and I’m figuring it all out just a few seconds late as it happens. So by the time I can process the fact that a tornado has just descended out of the clouds right over top of me it is too late and it has already moved on. So I watch it as it departs. It went diagonally across the woods to the right of the pond and sailed on up into the air headed toward what looked like the church (you remember Grandma’s church, Bethel United Methodist). Or maybe crossing just to the West of the church on Law Road. The next day I heard reports of severe damage on NC 86, which would be inline from that direction. But the solid, main enormous tornado had already marched on up 29 into Pelham by this time.

Power, Lights, Toilet

So, all in all, I decided to sit on the bench on the (North-facing) side porch and just watch everything go by. Pretty soon it started raining cats and dogs (that’s the 4 inches I was talking about) and I started to get spray on my shoes so I went inside. And by this time the power had blinkered back on. And the phone began ringing and it was Duke Power calling to see who had power and try to pinpoint where it was out. So we had lights and water (toilet) (and heat the next day when it was so bitterly cold), but a whole lot of people had it bad; really bad. So I’m very Grateful for the Divine Protection that God laid on me. (Even so, I’ve noticed that for a few days after something fierce like this happens, everybody -neighbors included, are a little shaky and easily startled. Case in point: when the cold front came through the next day, every time the wind would get up, I’d go to the window and make sure everything was still alright). I spent the rest of the night calling Aikido students in Danville because we saw on the news how bad it was after the Tornado went through there and we couldn’t get through to some of the people because they had trees down all over the road and the power was knocked out.

So that’s my little adventure for the week.