Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Two Anniversaries Today

Today marks two anniversaries for me. The first is a very joyous one - my two month anniversary of my liver transplant. So far I'm way ahead of the curve: no rejection episodes, liver is working great, and medication reactions are pretty much gone. Happy Day!!

The second anniversary isn't quite as joyous in that it marks the 23rd anniversary (time flies) of an F2 tornado destroying most of downtown Newberry, SC. We also had an F3 just outside of town. There was one death within the city limits and according to the NWS 10 others out in the county (I didn't know that.)

From Wikipedia:

The Carolinas Tornado Outbreak of March 28, 1984 was the most destructive to sweep through the two states since the Enigma tornado outbreak struck 100 years and 1 month earlier, according to NOAA and NCDC public records.

Weather records from March 28 indicate that an earlier tornado watch had been issued covering Northern Alabama and Georgia, and small tornadoes were reported in Barrow County (2:25 P.M., Eastern Standard Time) and Henry County (2:30 P.M., EST) in north Georgia. The first severe reports from North Carolina - golf-ball sized hail reports from Macon County, NC also occurred at this time. Severe storms began entering Western South Carolina by mid-afternoon, and tornado watches had been issued for most of South Carolina, North Carolina and a portion of Virginia.

I can remember it being a rather warm day and very sunny for most of the day. I was a senior at Mid-Carolina High in Prosperity. During last period I worked in the library and I can remember looking out the windows and noticing that the sky to the west was getting very dark. We all thought "Oh, great, thunderstorms and rain."

I also had a migraine headache that day. I had those frequently back then and they would really do a number on me. I had severe pain, light and sound sensitivity, nausea, and my eyes would water. I was miserable by the time I got in my Mom's 1977 Mercury Marquis station wagon that I drove to school (the "Kitty Hawk").

I was supposed to go down to the Ritz Theatre and work on the set and some other stuff for a show I was doing with the Newberry Community Players. I was Assistant Director/Stage Manager for the show, Crimes of the Heart. Instead, because of the headache I decided to go home and take a nap before rehearsal at 7pm.

I woke up at 5pm when my Mom shook me awake. She had a very scared look on her face. That's something that very rarely happened. My mother was a true Steel Magnolia. I could hear my dad on the telephone. That was also rare. She told me there was a tornado warning. Daddy hated talking on the phone. I realized he was talking to my sister who lived in the part of town known as "West End". We lived outside of town "in the country" in a mobile home.

Suddenly, my dad started yelling at my sister: "Get out of there!" Then he had the most horrible look on his face and dropped the phone and said to my mother and me, "Get in the car!"

I was terrified at that point and my mother was crying. We walked outside and the air was absolutely still. It looked like it was about 7pm at night with a weird orange glow to everything. The clouds were swirling and seemed like they were right above the treetops.

Daddy got us in the car and he drove. That was also weird, he always let Mama drive. We started up the drive and I asked if we were going over to Uncle Billy's house. He had a big brick house about 3 or 4 miles away and perpendicular to the path of the tornado. Daddy just shook his head and floored the accelerator when he turned onto SC 34 directing into the path of the storm. (This is the only time my father ever drove faster than 40 miles an hour!)

As I looked out the window I saw a tornado begin to dip out of the clouds into a field to our left. I pretty much knew at that point we were dead. But we kept going.

We got as far as Mt. Bethel Garmany Road and then ran into trees, power lines and debris all over the road. I thought we'd have to turn back but my dad decided to try another route. He was determined to get to my sister's house. We finally were forced to give up and go home as the police had closed off every road going into the city of Newberry. My sister later got word to us that she was fine and so were her kids.

When we got back home the steps in front of our trailer were about two feet away. I thought, "That's weird. The tornado moved concrete steps." We went inside and I opened the back door to check for damage out there and realized that the trailer was sitting hard against the utility pole. The tornado had picked up the trailer and moved it two feet and not a picture was crooked nor a dish broken. It was bizarre.

The rest of the night I listened to reports on the radio. Downtown Newberry was pretty much destroyed. Had I been at the Ritz I would have been in the middle of the worst of it and stranded. The roof was taken off the theatre and we had a good bit of water damage.

Little blessings.... a headache that caused me such pain and discomfort kept me safe during the worst storm in over 100 years. Universe works mysteriously sometimes.

No comments: