Monday, March 13, 2006

Yikes...Running in the Woods during a Tornado!

Well, 5 of us Trail Nerds decided to run at Clinton Lake State Park in Lawrence, Kansas on Sunday. The "Weather Guessers" had predicted severe thunderstorms by the afternoon. We thought we were safe, since we were running at 7 a.m. No such luck.

We saw lightning in the distance as we started heading out onto the heavily wooded trail. About 5-1/2 miles into the run, the lightning was all around us, and the sky had this strange, dark color to it. We made a group decision to head back on the "blue" trail, because it was only 3 miles back by that way. We looked for a crossover trail, found it, and started heading back on the blue trail.

Hail started falling on us. Great, now we would have to run on wet marbles. Then, what we thought was a "normal" thunderstorm front, blew in with intensity. It was much more than "normal." The large trees all around us had their top branches whipping around like fly rods. A lot of branches, trees, and debris was falling all around us as we ran. Needless to say, we were running at an adrenaline-charged pace. By the time we got back to the cars, it was fairly still around us.

I had several cellphone messages waiting for me. My son had spent the night in Lawrence at a friend's house, and said that tornados had hit the town. (Actually, it was mostly straight-line winds of 95 MPH and above that hit Lawrence...the tornados touched-down east of Kansas City). The storm front was headed eastward, which is the direction we needed to go to get home. We decided to try to find a breakfast joint open (that still had electical power). My son met us for breakfast, and we made a few cellphone calls to home. We found out that several more fronts were moving in from the west. Time to leave!

The church across the street from the breakfast place had lost two of its 3 brick steeples, and they were blocking the street. We saw that and some debris here and there, but we didn't realize the extent of the damage until we tried getting out of town. It took what seemed like an hour to pick our way through town and get to the main road to home. Trees, powerlines, etcetera were blocking our way. When we got out to the main highway (10), the freeway signs on the side of the road were twisted and blown down flat. These signs are mounted with two 6-inch I-beams, and are rated for 95-MPH winds!

We got home safely, and I figured that I wouldn't be able to do any yard work as planned, so it was a perfect day for homebrewing beer, right? I opened the garage door so, and got on with it. Several people showed up: "Good" Ben, my son, his friend, and two next-door neighbors. Of course, my dog was there, too. We figured we would watch the storm(s) from the relative comfort of my garage, while drinking beer. I have a name for this activity. Its called "White-Trash Theater." It's a very inexpensive form of entertainment.

We braved 2 more tornado siren sessions, some hail, some rain, and some gnarly Costco chicken burritos. A fun time was had by all. Good Ben had told me of his run in the woods at SM Park with his wife that morning. (They had the sirens go off while they were running, also). He may have fibbed a little to her about the severity of their situation, until they got safely back to their car.

We were all lucky. Nine people who died during this rash of local tornados weren't so lucky. My heart goes out to those who lost love ones.

Lawrence newspaper story.
By the way:
We also ran on Saturday morning at SM Park. (The weather was wonderful on Saturday). I had to leave our trail run early to work the finish line of the annual St Pat's day run. "Barefoot" Rick Roeber wrote a little race report about the event, which included a photo of me in my fluorescent orange KC Track Club shirt, standing next to him.


E-Speed said...

wow. glad you are okay.

Dirt Runner said...

I've been caught in a few storms and at first you just think you are going to get wet and before you know it, your running for your life. I always put it in my running logs as an interval workout because of the pace I am running to get to shelter.

Ben aka "Good Ben" said...

Nothing like a little motivation to pick up the pace eh? That's wild. Glad everybody's ok. White-trash theater rocks!

olga said...

This sounds horrifying! I am glad you all are OK, and sorry for those who aren't. I think next time I'll be listening to weather guessers better.

shliknik said...

You could start a group of 'storm chasers'. Instead of being in cars to scope out bad storms, you'll just need to make sure your shoes are laced up tight!

Donald said...

Wow. I'll stop complaining about our weather now.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

my jaw is wide open and I can't close it. Oh. my. god.

Glad you are safe! How frightening.

I like the "white trash theatre" !

Milly said...

Yikes!! Big brother I'm glad you're still alive!!

Rae said...

Wow! That would be a frightening run! I'm glad all of you guys were safe. I heard about the Midwestern storms earlier this week on the news and thought about all of you guys.