with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Journal: Falling Trees and Friends – Part Two

Journal: Falling Trees and Friends Part Two
Greensboro, NC
July 5, 1998

We learned later that the storm that hit us brought with it something I’d never heard of. A “white wind”. The news described it as “not a tornado but a very unusual wind blast created when two extreme weather conditions came together with force.” It’s a wind “explosion” created by the collision which forces the wind to slam straight down from the sky to blast into the ground. Once smacking the ground, it will then shoot out to the sides, smashing everything in its path.

It smashed into downtown Greensboro and hit pavement, which definitely isn’t very forgiving like farmland and blasted out windows in office buildings throughout the downtown area. The sideways wind blast scattered in all directions, plowing down anything that had any give. The rotting tree next to Martin’s trailer, complained about and reported to the campground office repeatedly, couldn’t withstand the blast. It snapped off near the base, crossing Martin’s trailer and slapping it’s top against ours.

The remaining stump revealed wood that was more sawdust from bug infestation and rot than solid tree.

As we dealt with the story in the campground, Brent had his own problems.

At work, Brent looked at the clock realizing that it was time to head home. Oblivious to the weather, he could hear the rain pounding the metal roof of his office at TIMCO, near the airport, so he decided to stay a while longer to finish up some work. This also put off a long walk through the rain to where the truck was parked. When he came out, everything looked fine, the rain had stopped, but the parking lot was wet. Must not have been much of a storm.

Half way home, the traffic on the highway came to a complete stop. He figured it was an accident. Slowed down, he started looking around. Slowly, he noticed leaves and branches on the road. He looked up at the trees lining the highway to only see more branches scattered along the hillside. Maybe, he thought, it might have been a little more than a rain storm.

Little did he know.

After moving sluggishly along the highway, our exit finally loomed. The backup continued, which was odd since he assumed the accident was on the highway not on the off-ramp. Then he saw a huge fallen tree alongside the road. It looked fresh and like it had been moved off the roadway recently. Fear tugged at his heart. Maybe this wasn’t just more than a little storm.

Worried, he turned down the street to the campground only to be turned around midway by a downed power pole. In the slow traffic, he pulled out the dog-eared map, abused from our recent arrival in the town. He planned an alternate route, only to have to turn back part way with more trees on that road. Panic began to set in. Over two hours later, he traveled the many back roads trying to get to the trailer, driving over huge store signs broken in pieces over the road and carefully maneuvering the truck under half downed trees and through freshly cut trees, finally arriving at the campground entrance.

He pulled in next to our trailer, relieved to see it still in one piece, and glances over to see people standing around Martin’s damaged trailer. He is even more relived to see that I’m standing with the crowd. I raced over to hug and reassure him.

I explained what happened, the condensed version, and tell him we’ve temporarily inherited a baby kitty, and to go check on Martin.

After checking on Martin, he returns to remind me we are due for dinner with some of Brent’s employee friends. What? He still wants to go, even though we are already late. So I get dressed up quickly, wish the cats good luck with each other, and we head out into the remains of a shattered community.

It takes almost an hour to go around trees and the lightless stop lights. We quickly learned that the citizens of Greensboro don’t know that a dead stop light means the intersection becomes a 4-way stop sign. We passed accidents all over the place, coming and going, from people flying through the lights and smashing into others flying through from the other direction. Both of us would swear in court that there was an accident at every other major intersection. Incredible.

When we came to a light, we’d stop, but the guy behind us would honk on his horn and yell out his window. Or we would stop and the rest of the people would stop, but they never learned that the vehicle on the right has right of way, so we’d get tired of looking at each other and Brent would go through just to get it started. Strange. Growing up with frequent power outages, I was stunned at this insanity in Greensboro. If we’d witnessed this strange behavior once or twice, it wouldn’t have meant much to us, but we saw it at every intersection, people just plowing through as if they owned the road and the right-of-way.

We made it to the restaurant, after several detours around trees and downed power lines, an hour late. The further we drove north, the more lights were on and the less damage we saw.

We told our friends we had been delayed due to all the outages and downed trees from the storm and they all turned to us and asked, “What storm?”

We were stunned, but we’ve learned this is typical with these types of storms, they hit only small areas and leave others completely untouched.

We felt better when another couple arrived thirty minutes later, also delayed by the storm damage, and able to bear witness on the storm we’d passed through.

Coming home in the dark it was really scarey with people still running through intersections, but we made it home safely, and a little wiser.

At home, we found Toshi on the bed VERY UNHAPPY about his new roommate. The kitten, currently nameless, bounced around and was having a carefree great time as long as he stayed away from the big MEAN cat. I went to Toshi to pick him up and sooth his ruffled feathers. The little shit hissed and struck out, connecting a recently trimmed big claw into the soft skin right under my right eye – yep, you guessed it! The same eye recently recovered from its bloody vessel break during my day from hell.

I thought I was okay, but, after restraining my old cat suddenly turned into a jealous spitfire, Brent took one look at my face and sent me into the bathroom, taking over the Toshi brigade. Sure enough, the little furry beast had ripped a hole under my eye. I did the best I could to clean it up and tried to put a butterfly bandage on it. But it wouldn’t stick to the delicate skin. So I ended up using a long Steri-strip (like a strapping tape bandage) to pull the skin together from the side of my nose to the temple, a big white line under my eye. One look in the mirror at this bizarre taped up face and I’ve now returned to my Frankenstein impression of a couple weeks ago.

We made it through the night, with no more wind, just a light rain. Inside the trailer, another storm was brewing. Toshi and the kitten hissed and spit and howled at each other. Brent finally got up and put the kitten in her traveling case and putting it out in the truck as the noise of Toshi spitting or the kitten experimenting with everything in the trailer (oooo, I wonder if I can knock this off the table???) got to be a bit much. Me, I slept through the whole thing, bandaged face and all.

As horrific as all of this sounds, it does have a lighter side to it. Stay tuned for III.

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