Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Tornadic Cowtown Birthday!

First of all, I wanted to clear up some confusion from my last post. When I said "I wish I had one" after talking about sweet kitties, I meant I wish I had a SWEET kitty. Neither Real Cat or Perspective Cat are particularly sweet!

My cats really got after me for leaving the wrong impression. They are feeding me crow and they were appalled that I would replace them with.......A DOG!

Enough of that. Now for the post.

I just realized that Saturday will be the 9th anniversary of a very exciting event that may be news to most of you. Yes, it's the 28th of March. Yes, it's probably someone's birthday (No, not mine. Not. Just. Yet.)

Begin drum roll.


That's right. The tornado that tore through downtown COWTOWN. That's right. I said DOWNTOWN, the place where tornadoes are never supposed to go. At least that's what the mayor told us.

I worked in downtown Fort Worth at the time. The tornado came through about 6:15 PM. I was headed north to my home and I was about 5 miles from downtown. I was being pounded by nickel-sized and golf ball-sized hail. I had a new car at the time and I was about to turn around and go back downtown and get in the parking garage to wait out the storm. Then I heard the news. A tornado had just struck downtown Fort Worth. Broken glass and other debris was everywhere. Emergency vehicles were being summoned. Traffic was a nightmare. Texas Longhorns (cattle) were blown into buildings and a man was impaled by one of the savage beasts. So I kept going. I made it home safely with only a few dings on my car.

Uh...ReformingGeek, you have had too many happy pills. There were NO Texas Longhorn cattle flying around down there. Nobody got impaled by a cow. Quit fibbing.


I heard later that there were quite a few folks still working when the tornado hit. On man told me this story. He worked in the building I worked in at the time:
"My co-worker got my attention to look out the window. Heading towards us was this huge tornado. She just kept staring as I was trying to get through to her that we need to get away from the glass. Finally, I grabbed her and we took cover in the print room (This room had a door and no glass.) I felt the air pressure change, heard some weird noises, and then it was over. I don't want to do that again."
One of the accountants at the company I worked for shared her experience:
"I was walking outside to the parking area and I saw this huge tornado heading for the building. I ran back inside and alerted Security. The guard looked at me as if I'd grown three heads. I told him I wasn't kidding. I went back into the office and told my employees to get to the stairwell, immediately. We felt the pressure change, heard glass breaking, and then it was over. It scared the shit out of me!"

One of the key issues with this experience was that the storm sirens did not go off in a timely manner. This prompted a re-work of that system so now the storm sirens go off so much that we practically ignore them. We started having storm drills and I remember one particular long late afternoon/evening as we were all in our "safe" areas waiting for a storm to pass.

There were some reports of people seeing "green powder" swirling around in their office. It turns out this was the broken glass. Ick! Some people didn't make it to the stairwell. They hid under their desks.

The downtown area was closed for several days after the tornado and many of the roads were still closed once the area was re-opened. Traffic was a nightmare. It took them awhile to clean up all the glass and other debris. We heard that company paperwork had blown all around town and some folks were kind enough to return it to us.

A few buildings took heavy damage. My building got by with only a few broken windows.

The picture above shows the buildings I just talked about. The building with the round area on top is the building I worked in at the time. The two "towers" across the street also belonged to the same company and the closest tower was the one the accountant worked in at the time. The taller tower was the Bank One building and it looked horrible for a very long time. There was a restaurant at the top. Several customers watched the tornado form and approach before making their way down 35 flights of stairs.

What a mess!

The tornado spawned another series of tornadoes that headed east. It was one hell of a night. With all this that was going on, only four people died. About 80 were injured.

A few years ago, one of the local stations did a retrospective. I found it on youtube. It's short so watch it if you can.

Storm season is upon us. It seems that fancy radar can track the tornado almost to the point of when it hits your house. We have a closet under the stairway that is the designated tornado shelter. Of course this closet is full of skeletons, various live and dead vacuums, Christmas decorations, our massive DVD collection, the kitchen sink, and who knows what else. Also, trying to lasso the cats and get all of us in there is quite an ordeal. We are hoping for a tornado free spring, summer, fall, and winter around here!

Photo credits: The tornado aftermath picture is something I found on flickr and was taken by a professional company called airmemory. The Texas Longhorn picture is from Wikipedia.

Additional references: Wikipedia article on the Fort Worth 2000 Tornado and a book titled SHATTERED, The Tarrant Tornadoes written by the Star-Telegram.


Anonymous said...

I remember there were a couple times when my dad would send us all to the basement because of tornado watches. I used to always take my turtles.

I can't imagine how scary it would be to be in a tornado. Not knowing which direction it's going to go, or who it will spare. Scary!!

United Studies said...

I hope you all have a tornado-free year, too! My worst experience with tornadoes was when I was 15 and we were living in Homestead, Florida. I was taking drivers ed and a huge thunderstorm spawned several tornadoes around the city. One passed very close to where we were, and it blew the door off the classroom. I just remember hearing the wind and feeling the pressure.

Anonymous said...

And yet the cats lived?

Why weren't they blown away with the tornado?

Now, a dog would be much more grounded than a cat.

Just sayin'.

(evil grin)

ReformingGeek said...

@Cubicle - I didn't even get to see the tornado. I would like to see one, though, going the other way!

@Jacki - Sounds scary. We are expecting storms today. Sheesh!

@Quirky - Ah, poor kittehs. Remember that it's the dog (Toto) that spins around in tornadoes!

Unknown said...

WHat a horrific experience. We have tornadoes here, but I have never experienced one. Knock on non-splintered wood.

If you have any pictures of your own, you can submit them to "Whatever Blows Your Cow" http://stormchasing249.blogspot.com/

She post pictures and stories of torndaoes

Tracy Rambles On And On said...

Wanna hear something funny? Honestly, I don't care if you want to hear it or not, you're getting it anyway.
In 1998, I was engaged to a guy who was in the Army and was stationed at Ft. Worth, or was it Ft. Hood?, either way it was a Fort of some kind and our plans were to marry and I was going to move there with him.
My point? What if I would have been stabbed by a flying longhorn? I know you said it didn't happen but trust me, had I been there and with my luck, I would have been the one who would have made it happen.
I'm glad you made it home safely! I probably would have pulled over on the side of the road and cried like a baby until my car was picked up by the tornado and then crashed down in Oz, which wouldn't have been such a bad thing because I have wanted those Ruby heels since I was a kid!
And thanks for clearing that up about the cats. Glad to hear that you're the catlady afterall.

Ed & Jeanne said...

This is why I never visit anywhere near the tornado zone...my luck would draw some mega-tornado right to me. It's happened twice with hurricanes and I don't live anywhere around where those are...

Bee (the one who muses) said...

That is very scary. I used to work across the street LITERALLY across the street form O'hare airport and when 9/11 happened, we had to evacuate because there was one plane unaccounted for that was supposed to land at O'Hare. After that, we had practice drills in case of planes and bio terrorism. This world we live in... :o(

ReformingGeek said...

@dizzblnd - They are definitely scary.

@Tracy - I'm so glad you escaped the flying Longhorns at Fort Hood!

@VE - Yeah. Please don't plan to visit anywhere near my home.

@Bee - No kidding. I guess it's better than living in Iraq.

Jean Knee said...


last year I had a gustnado in my very own backyard. We have longhorn cattle down the street but I'm pretty sure they didn't impale anyone.

The Hussy Housewife said...

WOW! I never knew. Crazy. Glad you came out ok. Dang..another reason to quit the corporate office life...tornado danger!!

Meg said...

Yikes! We have tornados here in Ohio, too. Daughter declared just the other day that she wants to be a doctor and live in a state with no tornadoes.

ReformingGeek said...

@Jean - Be careful. Those things are dangerous!

@Hussy - Yeah. Office buildings are hazardous to your health.

@Prefers - Hum...a state without tornadoes?

"1.00s, 1.50s, 1.75s for the short arms. If you know what I'm talking about, you're probably old, too."

"Boomer brain fog: What was the last, middle, and first part of what you just said to me?"