Iowa, United States – Shaking in a tornado

On a recent trip to the United States we helped friends to move from New York to Montana. They had both recently retired, had sold up and couldn’t get out of town fast enough. We left towards the end of June 2014. Chris, my old school mate, and I were driving in his truck towing the RV (an enormous caravan with all luxury you can dream of). Julie, his wife, and Marcelle were following in the SUV with Julie’s five dogs. Although the roads were good, they were very busy crowded by huge Semi’s (eighteen wheeler trucks), who basically took over the road. You see one in your rear view mirror and you give way, no questions asked.

Our route took in a more or less straight line to Chicago and to the banks of the Mississippi, where we spent our second night. From here it’s about halfway to Montana and with a lot less traffic. The next morning we were up and ready to go, when Julie informed us that, according to the latest weather report, a seriously large thunderstorm was sweeping across Iowa. She suggested, being tornado season, maybe we should wait a day or at least until the storm had passed. Not wanting to delay the trip, Chris and I figured that we could not wait out every storm. If we did that, we’d never get there. Anyway, what were the chances of being hit by a tornado? If the weather would get really bad, we could find a safe place to pull over. About two hours later, we had just passed Iowa City, as we could see the approaching storm on the horizon.

Iowa is flat. As far as the eye can see nothing but cornfields. The storm up ahead looked ominous, black and purple. Angry looking clouds were stretching across the sky with seemingly no end. Within minutes the rain started to fall. Big drops were hammering furiously on the hood of our car. Lightning was streaking across the sky pretty much nonstop. I surely love a big thunderstorm, but this was something else! I have never seen a sky so dramatically dark and intimidating. We decided, it might be better to find some shelter. Fat chance! In the Midwest it’s flat for thousands of miles. It was raining so heavily, that we hardly managed to see the road. Just as we were thinking of pulling off to the side, a semi, which had barreled passed us a few moments earlier, was lying on its side to leave just a small alley to pass by. The huge truck had been blown over by the wind, which was gusting at high speed. After squeezing through we proceeded a few hundred meters to a spot, where there was minor protection for the wind by hills both sides of the road and pulled off immediately as far as possible. We did not want to be hit from behind! Meanwhile it was impossible to see even the front of the car, let alone trying to drive.

It started to hail, small at first, getting bigger to finally pounding viciously down on the car surface. I was quite enjoying myself sitting safely in the car in this incredible storm. The thing was, it was getting worse by the minute. All of a sudden the wind picked up intensively and was rocking the car as if it would take only a little to be blown away into the sky. The temperature dropped from 83 degrees F to 65 in a manner of seconds (the car has one of those inside outside temperature gauges on the dashboard). At the sudden it turned dark as the night around us, although the clock showed only 10am. Now we were seriously worried, that something bad was going to happen. How foolish we had been to disregard the weather report!

It was about forty minutes ago since we had pulled over. We were still waiting anxiously and wondering, how much longer the scary conditions would last, when suddenly the spook was over. Just like that, no hail no rain anymore! The wind had dropped and the temperature raised back slowly up to around eighty degrees F. Within a couple of minutes the sun was out. With some nervous laughter we made a quick check of the vehicle, cranked up the music and continued on our way to arrive safely in beautiful mountainous Montana only a day later. Luckily there are no tornadoes in Montana!

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 Nomads Notes

Author: George Mostert

Since 2013 I travel together with Marcelle around the world. Finding hidden treasures at the unbeaten trails is where we aim for. We are still discovering best ways to travel cheaply to be able to live our dream. It's working out quite well up to now. We share our experiences as house sitters and travelers on our websites and hope for a lively exchange with other travelers.

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