With severe weather time rumbling about this take from the upcoming “Notes About Growing Up” is very much on target.
North Texas is at the southern end of the most violent part of “Tornado Alley”. Gainesville’s storm frequency seemed to be more like Norman, Oklahoma’s than what was seen in Fort Worth or its “neighbor to the east” being further north. One day in the spring of 1978 we saw an interesting example of the wild nature of Texas weather in that region.
One day in March football season was over but it was flag football time and many gathered at the high school for that. It was an overcast day with a high grey ceiling of stratus whose hue varied from light to darker grey. The games went to and from on the practice field and no one seemed to be looking at the skies since it was not exactly the time of year for “heavy weather” – read the book by Bruce Sterling of the same name as one weather fiction suggestion – but I saw something to the south of town that was quite rare. THREE funnel clouds started to dip down from the same patch of sky, one longer one surrounded by two smaller and shorter satellites. You don’t see that everyday even in Tornado Alley you know. Even then I was sort of a weather nut so I was fascinated by it but also new by the look of them they were not the city-destroying type everyone in that part of the country naturally feared. In short I observed with calm fascination. Then others started to see it and the formally calm tone – ignoring the frantic antics on the practice field – suddenly changed.
At first some of the guys on the football team talked amongst themselves trying to figure out whether or not to broadcast the news but that didn’t last long. When some of the girls saw it all Hell broke loose and people started to get scared. They ran to get in their cars and hurriedly drove off to some other place they thought was safer. What did I do? I just stood there since the tornadic trio was not moving much, there was a creek and a ditch nearby (plus he school) for shelter, and the last thing you do is get in your car to try to run away from a twister. But most there did drive or run away and chaos reigned in the parking lot as cars and students ran to and from sometimes in terror. But in a short time few remained there, like me, and the twisters never touched the ground. They dissipated and restored the cloud deck to its previous calm, smoothness.
One image of that incident remains with me more than others in a way. I recall the rictus of terror seen on my good friend Lynen Homer’s face as she drove by me in her Olds 98 that she drove. I shouted at her to stop but she heard me not and zoomed back to her house on the southeastern side of town. I’m still friends with Lynne even now so I think I will give her a call and remind her of that to razz her, thus proffering up a forecast fulfilled with humor to recount that extraordinary day now nearly 40 years ago and also remind her to “Keep Your Eyes On The Skies” since it is Texas and the weather’s gonna change.
Author’s Note: I did recently call Lynne and give her a rash of sh*t about it. As is her way she responded in kind……