Mother Nature can be a wicked, wicked woman.
Farmers and ranchers are really getting hammered this year, and the hits just keep coming. According to information from the National Centers For Environmental Information, there have been nearly a dozen weather and climate disaster events (not including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, or wildfires) in 2017 where damages have totaled at least a billion dollars.
It’s very helpless feeling seeing what you have worked so hard for all your life under water, blown away or just simply gone. Farmers and ranchers can rebuild, but it’s never the same, and the landscape is forever altered.
Working at weekly and daily newspapers for many years, I was one of the people chasing the storms, camera and notebook in hand. I followed a dozer into a rural area in 2003 after a deadly tornado ripped a path from Cedar County to Camden County. It was my first up close look at the aftermath of a tornado. I’ve driven into areas that were under evacuation orders, thinking the whole time I had completely lost my mind, but I had a job to do.
In 2008, storm clouds were brewing overhead and I heard a call come across the scanner for help in a nearby community – my hometown. A street had been leveled by a tornado – the street my grandmother lived on. Luckily, Grandma was OK and was pulled from what was left of her home by neighbors.
A year later, I again heard the scanner call for help. This time it was at my older brother’s. Damage wasn’t extensive at his place, however, houses across the road were destroyed and life was lost.
Then there was the tornado outbreak in February 2012. I was in the hospital with my husband in the early morning hours when everything broke loose. The Weather Channel had reports of destruction in my hometown, and the tornados were still on the ground. I didn’t know if my family was OK or if I even had a house to go back to. We made it through unscathed, but others were not so lucky.
The storm I will never forget happened over the Memorial Day weekend. I went out with my dad and two of the Wee Turners for a day on the wagon. The weather had said there was a chance for storms later in the day, but we figured we would be done in plenty of time, so we hitched up Dad’s team and rolled out.
As the afternoon wore on, clouds began to move in, bringing a little relief from the sun. The clouds, however, turned ominous and our breeze turned into high winds.
Soon, Bill called asking where we were. I told him were just a couple of miles from the house. There was a bit of panic in his voice. “They’ve spotted tornados…” he said just as the phone went dead. It was as if all Hades broke loose. Blowing rain, tree limbs and leaves flying; I said a little prayer as I put my niece, Morgan, on the floor of the wagon and held her down. I could barely see the wagon in front of us because of the rain, but I kept looking at Dad’s team to make sure they still had all eight hooves on the ground, and making sure Dad and Brylie, my nephew, were still in their seats.
The temperature dropped about 30 degrees, and since we were all soaked from the rain, I don’t know if it was the cold or fear causing us to shake. As it began to move out, we decided it was time to call it a day and headed back to our starting location.
I don’t know if it was actually a tornado that went over us, but a few miles away there was a confirmed touchdown of a twister, so I’d say there was a good chance. At the house, Bill said he watched yet another system roll through. Our neighbors lost trees, a barn was destroyed and there were other nearby damage reports. Once again, we were lucky.
As farmers and ranchers, we can only hope for the best and expect the worst when it comes to the weather.
Hopefully, with a little more luck, Mother Nature will see how bruised and battered parts of our world are and say we’ve had enough. Meanwhile, friends and neighbors, keep an eye on the sky and a prayer on your lips.