Severe weather in Pennsylvania last night

Maybe it’s because our small town was devastated by a tornado twenty six years ago this week, but I am deathly afraid of thunderstorms.

Panic stricken afraid, in other words… I freak.

Why? I’m not sure.  I was only six years old when the 1985 tornado took out half of our town, and barely remember the day except that it was beautiful out. Then everything got still, then we were in my grandma’s basement and it was over. Brief flashes in my memory of a town flattened through the windows of my dad’s van. A lawnmower with a wrench sitting on top of it, a stool next too it, surrounded by pieces of houses, trees, and dead cats. A dead cow, a dead dog, people scared, crying and upset about loved ones that were injured, and even lost. 12 people were killed in our small town that day, and it’s something a town will ever forget. Or something a person ever forgets, no matter how little or how much that it touched them. It was down the road and around the corner from our home. For years every time I heard the train I would hide under my parent’s bed, just because I had heard people talking about the roar of the funnel, how it sounded like trains going through their houses. I still listen closely when I hear the train, just to be sure.

tornado 2011 may

House the next road over. Photo taken by a friend.

Last night we had tornado warnings. I was scared. Still a bit shaky inside even when I think about it. Watching the news these past few weeks, and just feeling sickened and heart heavy for those who are suffering so much in places like Joplin, MO has made me feel super sensitive to the weather in our own area. Though last night’s  “unconfirmed” {now confirmed as an F-1} tornado touchdown was around the corner and down the road a mile, to me that is in my backyard, too close to my children, my family and the ones that I love. Thankfully no one was injured {that I’ve heard of} in last night’s storm, but it was too close.


tornado may 2011

House farther down, barn used to sit on the right, now just a pile of debris. There were boards all over the field and pieces of wood stuck into the ground in a lawn all the way across the field from this barn.


One moment the SkyWarn radio people were saying that it didn’t look like much was going to happen. This seemed doubtful to me since the sky was continually getting blacker throughout the afternoon, and the stillness was eerily odd. Super G. had taken the kids to Walmart after school to pick up a few last minute items for my birthday supper, and cards the kids wanted to pick out, when the sky started to turn very ugly and weird. It was getting  a grayish pink  cast to it, combined with the black it looked very ugly and menacing. They finally pulled into the driveway and I expressed my concern. Super G. likes to make fun of me for being so scared but darn it I don’t care, I want to be safe not blown away! Within minutes of them arriving home I heard the SkyWarn radio people start to get excited, talking about how cells were popping up all over the place and to be prepared to report severe weather. They mentioned a road very close to our road and town and were saying a tornado watch box would be coming up any minute. Then our electric went out.


tornado debris May 2011

A large barn beam stuck into the ground from the barn that was destroyed. Across the road and about 200 yards away from where the barn sat.


I managed to find and plug in the radio as the winds started picking up and the rain started. As soon as I turned it on and heard the announcer say Tornado Warning along with our town’s name, and the direction it was headed in, I grabbed the kids, screamed for our Ginger Dog, and started running across the yard to my aunt’s house, and the only basement nearby. My mom was already in the driveway, screaming for us as we came out the door, saying that my step-dad and another aunt the next road over had phoned her and told her to get her ass next door to the basement.


Tree damaged by tornado May 2011

There are tons of damaged, twisted and uprooted trees along the path.

I am thankful that the storm didn’t reach our road, it stayed on a path that took it through the woods about a mile behind our home and continued on through the next small town. There were several barns completely destroyed, roofs that were damaged and many many large healthy trees uprooted, twisted and splintered. UPDATED on 5/28: I have it backwards, the tornado actually touched down in the next town over and then made its way towards our road, zig zagging through woods, fields and homes in its path. I’m still not sure where exactly it ended at. Close friends of my mom’s lost the entire roof of their home, and I believe ten homes had some pretty significant damage from downed trees and wind.

I pray everyday that severe weather will pass us by and that the day will turn out good. It doesn’t seem right to pray so hard for this while others have been suffering daily and losing their homes while we are more fortunate, I pray for them too though and hope that they can find peace and be able to return to a normal life in time.

Sometimes I wonder to myself why in the world I ever wanted winter to end, at least I can deal with a blizzard.

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About the Author

Henrietta Newman is a self-loving empty-nester into smudging, nature, yoga, fitness, healthy living, hunting, camping, hiking, tech, video games, gadgets, recipes, reviews and more.
With a love for the outdoors and visiting local attractions in and around NW PA and Lake Erie, you never know what you'll find in my nest! Subscribe to A Hen's Nest so you don't miss the fun!


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