We stood huddled in a closet measuring about 6x8x9 feet.
Four of us—my son, Ian; his wife, Sandra: my daughter, Andrea, and me. Ian’s and Sandra’s two dogs being held in their arms.
Sandra prayed aloud. “God, keep us safe.”
Lights flickered, but we had a flashlight. They flickered again.
Then total darkness.
A growing rush of wind could be heard.
“Is that the train?” I asked. No response.
I felt the wall against which I stood vibrate a little—not much, just enough.
That was the extent of any conversation as we four and two dogs listened to the roar of the wind. Added to that was banging, knocking, the clink of glass breaking.
Things banged against the outside of the house, like someone throwing beams of wood in anger. Clacking. Crushing. Thudding.
Then—Quiet. Calm. Noiseless. Except for the relaxing breaths being expelled by the four of us.
We waited a few more moments—hoping the thunderous roar had vanished forever.
We emerged from the center room to a silent dark. Only the beam of Ian’s flashlight guided our way around the house. Now began the assessment of any damage.
Writers are told to write what they know about. Before Saturday, December 26, 2015 in the early evening, I could not have told of this experience. Now I can.
We had just finished Christmas dinner when Ian’s scanner indicated rotations spotted near Rowlett. We turned on the television and computer to view the weather maps with their radar indicators. Tornadoes had been spotted from southeast of Dallas near Glenn Heights, Ovilla, Red Oak, and headed toward Rowlett and Rockwall areas. We were in Rowlett, sitting right in its path. So we put leashes on the dogs, and headed for the small room located near the dining room. The food remained on the table.
I had never experienced being in the crosshairs of a tornado before, but amazingly, I felt very calm. Was it disbelief that this was actually happening, or the beginning of shock? I still don’t know.
After the wild rush of the wind, which actually did sound like a train hurtling through, we found a dining room window had been broken, a skylight in the guest bathroom shattered, and an assortment of wood pieces, some with nails still embedded, scattered around the yard. The outdoor decorations were flattened. Power was gone from the whole area. People met on the street, some carrying flashlights, discussing what happened and what to do now. The family next door to my son’s house had a portion of their outside wall blown off leaving only the studs showing. Beams of wood lay scattered all over lawns, and the street. When Ian was able to get on the roof to cover the hole left by the broken skylight, he discovered some more holes that had been punctured through the roof, some small, others needing larger pieces of covering. Andrea had gone out to inspect our van and returned to report the windshield was smashed. I thought she meant with a large hole, but the safety feature of the glass kept that from happening. However, it was shattered. Fortunately, she was able to see on the left side of that spot so she could drive.
Andrea and I stayed for a little bit to help clean up where we could, then got in the car to come home. We drove down to the end of the street, rounded the corner, and found we could go no farther. There were at least two houses with their fronts blown completely off. Trees and huge limbs lay on the street. There was no exit at that end. So we drove to the other end, and found our way out—the only way we could go.
As we drove to I-30, the low pressure indicator on the dashboard lit up. One of our tires was losing pressure. We drove on until we took a service road to a 7-11 gas station, and called roadside assistance. About ninety minutes later, the man arrived to change our tire. During those ninety minutes, every emergency vehicle raced to and fro, their sirens screaming to make room for them to do their job.
By now, the hour was about 11:30. Since our ailing tire had been replaced with the “donut” we drove 45 miles per hour from Dallas to Jacksonville. Arrival time at home was 3:00 A.M.
This morning we learned more of what resulted from that storm. Yes, we had been caught in the crosshairs, but we learned the tornado touched down on one end of the street where we were, lifted as it sped along, missing several houses, including my son’s, and touched down again at the opposite end of the street, damaging several homes. We didn’t know until then just how fortunate we were.
Of course, there were other catastrophes and fatalities. And we pray for those caught in the way. I can only say I have experienced a tornado up close and never want to again. But it is something I can now write about because of that experience.