Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Keeping an eye on the Doppler Radar

April 4, Gulf Shores, Alabama

We are twenty miles from Pensacola Naval Air Station, so when I awoke to the sounds of loud rumbling in the skies, I thought it might be a training squadron of Blue Angels passing overhead. Then I heard the pattering of a heavy rain on the top of our roof and saw flashes of light.  Ahhh, a good old-fashioned thunderstorm, like I remember from my youth in Northern Illinois, had hit the southern Alabama coast. Vic was already up and out of bed, peering out the windows at the trees swaying in 35 knot gusts.
Waking to a storm in a motorhome has a whole different feel than when you are snug in a house.  The ensuing dialog went like this:
Pam: "Are any of the awnings still out?"
Vic: "Yes, but only the small manual ones on the driver's side. I need to go out and take them down." 
Pam: "How about the flag pole?"
Vic: "That too. If it hasn't snapped already, it's about to. . . ."
Pam: As lightening flashes all around, "Do you need to get on the metal ladder to lower the flagpole?"
Vic: "I hope not, but maybe."
Pam: "Are you kidding me?"
Vic: Putting on his Gore-Tex, "I'll be okay."
By now the two dogs are reflecting our anxiety, cowering in the corner each time the skies rumble. Vic is outside during the peak of the storm at 4:15 a.m. trying to save our very cool 16' flagpole with solar-powered LED globes that change colors in the night. I hear some loud noises at the back of the motorhome imagining him flat on his back in the storm. Leaning out the door, I yell, "You okay?"  Next I see the shape of a hooded figure carrying a long pole with a glowing ball--(no jokes, please). He rushes toward me out of the storm and pushes the wet pole into the dry interior of the motorhome. Whew. I feel better knowing he is safe inside. Our nerves are raw. Having lived in the Northwest for most of our lives, we're quite inexperienced when it comes to thunderstorms. I grab my phone and check Doppler radar on the Weatherbug App. It shows a peg man icon, denoting our exact location on site 255 in Gulf State Park, smack dab in the middle of  the deepest red of the storm indicator.  It didn't help matters that the last news item we saw on late night tv was coverage of severe tornado weather in Dallas, Texas.  We snuggle back into bed, pulling all the night shades tight to block out the flashes of lightening. My mind turns to the other less comfy campers in this park of over 400 sites. In particular, I try to envision the family of four next to us huddled together in their eight-man tent during this storm.  I ask Vic about them and he says he saw them fleeing in their car. I am grateful for our comfy dry bed and the promise of a drier tomorrow. 
Here is a clip of the weather we woke up to this morning. I shaded the sky for dramatic effect:

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