Because one of my pastimes is photographing lightning, I’ve amassed an arsenal of storm stories over the years:
• There was the time I literally missed by a handful of seconds getting a shot of lightning hitting the Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra.
• One night I managed to capture bolts behind both the Mark Twain Hotel and the Mark Twain Riverboat.
• Returning from a chase south of Hannibal a few years ago I found a tree laying across both lanes and shoulders of Missouri 79.
• After capturing lightning behind the First Presbyterian Church’s steeple, hail forced me to hustle for cover.
On more than one occasion I’ve either gone out or come home to the wail of the city’s outdoor warning sirens.
While some high-tech storm chasers go out at night, years ago I made a vow not to wander out to face a storm that carries a tornado warning. At some point in my photographic career I’d love to shoot a tornado, but there’s just too great a risk going out at night without radar guidance.
Despite the fact it might sound like I’ve developed a little wisdom when it comes to dealing with thunderstorms, looking back on my behavior just over a week ago when a severe storm rocked Hannibal, I reconfirmed I’m not the “sharpest knife in the drawer” when it comes to severe weather.
For probably the better part of an hour on May 20 I watched on radar as the storm approached from the southwest. With my oldest son, Caleb, getting ready to head home that afternoon, I was trying to keep an eye on the weather in the hope of helping him get out of town before conditions really did go downhill. As it turned out, Caleb departed only 15 minutes before the storm hit.
I noted on the National Weather Service’s website that the tornado warning had been extended to Marion County even before the outdoor warning sirens began to sound. Armed with that knowledge, did I head to the basement when the sirens sounded?
No. I stood at the kitchen sink doing dishes. Who wants to go to Oz with a sink full of dirty dishes?
When the sirens ceased, I thought perhaps the threat had passed. Consequently, instead of going to the basement, I sat down at my computer and started Tweeting about the darkening sky and the fact it was starting to rain and get windy.
I was finally motivated to head downstairs by a loud “WHOMP” sound, which turned out to be part of a large maple tree coming down on the rear of my house.
Page 2 of 2 - Heading to the basement, with my 17-year-old daughter, Anna, hot on my heels, I noticed the wind was so strong it was trying to raise my garage door. As I attempted to keep the door closed, I discovered the rain runoff was overpowering my basement drain and water was running everywhere.
By the time I found a way to pop the drain cover so it would take more water, the storm was essentially over.
I won’t whine at all about the damage that was done at my house. I didn’t have to wander far from home to find houses in far worse condition.
The most memorable part of my storm story is the help that was provided and offered. My neighbor, Larry, his wife, Michelle, along with my bride, Nancy, plus Anna and a couple of her friends got the tree cut up, loaded and hauled away one afternoon.
Calls offering help also came from some of my other children and their spouses, who live hours away. Some of Nancy’s siblings also contacted us to see if we needed anything.
While I won’t soon forget the dark clouds that roared through Hannibal last week, neither will I forget the “silver lining” of assistance that followed the storm.