Those of you who have been watching the news have probably seen footage of the Granbury, Millsap and Cleburne tornadoes that we had last night, and most of you know that this right where I live. Let me preface this post by saying we are all alive and unharmed, but we had a wild night and we are very lucky to have come through unscathed.
(To give you some bearings, Granbury is smack in the middle between the horses live in and the town we were going. The town the horses live in is directly inbetween the town I live in and Cleburne. Millsap is a few miles due west of my house.)
S barrel races, and there was a race running locally yesterday evening. We almost went to the one in Cleburne on Tuesday, but decided not to. (Can you imagine if the race had been yesterday instead of on Tuesday? We'd have been Wizard of Oz'd away!) I decided to take O for the experience, since barrel races are generally total chaos and it's a great experience for youngsters to be able to deal with the experience without the additional expectation of performance. (Someday when they are showing, going to hectic new places won't be such a big deal!) We ate dinner on the porch, groomed the horses, and looked at the sky, wondering if it was going to possibly rain. We hadn't heard anything of interest, so we tossed the horses on the trailer and headed out. We decided to stop and grab some beer for when we got there, and as we were pulling in to the local HEB I started to give the clouds north of us the leery eye. Huge, angry clouds were piling up enormously high, developing rapidly into something that looked like it was going to be serious. It was at least 20 miles north of where we were, so I didn't expect it to come our way, but my house was up there - what was going on? I pulled up the radar on my phone, and immediately was given a Tornado Warning for Mineral Wells and Weatherford. What?? It wasn't even supposed to rain much! I called Future Hubs and left a message - "it's coming your way, please be careful!" - and jumped back into the truck with S. "He'll be all right," she said. As we pulled out, I turned towards the west, wondering if any of the innocuous clouds in front of us were also going to turn deadly without any warning at all.
As we drove through Granbury, the clouds started to build, and the skies darkened. The system running parallel to the road we were on (it was going west to east, and we were going the opposite way) was starting to look incredibly scary, and I sat staring out the window, feeling increasingly excited and alarmed. I have a very healthy fear of tornadoes, and get simultaneously over-stimulated and slightly excited/panicked at the same time. The storm was starting to rotate, and people were pulling off the road to take pictures of it. I grabbed a pic from the window of the car:
And at that point basically said, "S, that's trying to form a tornado.... let's get the hell out of here!"
We left the storm in our dust, made it to the barrel race, unloaded the horses, and watched the weather to the north and south of us. It didn't appear that anything else was headed our way at that moment, so we tacked up, hopped on, and off we went!
(She was not convinced that this was a good idea. Notice giant tornadic storm behind us.)
O is is FLAMING heat right now, so she screamed essentially nonstop the entire ride. I have no idea who she was screaming for half of the time - her friends were right there with her! - but she hollered until she hardly had a voice left. Other than that, she was REALLY well-behaved, all things considered! She was very consistent with the way she is at home when she is in heat - a little tight through her back, a little unsteady in the contact, and a little behind the leg. She seems to be stopping her habit of grabbing at the contact and rushing forward, so perhaps that is soon to be a thing of the past! Still no word from our dentist, so that is up in the air... sigh. With a few clucks, she moved smartly forward, and while she was a little up and down with the contact, she was obedient and more or less attentive to my directions. After a very, very long trot session, she relaxed, and gave me some nice work. Not bad for working in a tiny, crammed, crooked arena with way too many horses running in every direction!
This is obviously not a good angle for us... I swear I'm not that chunky or slumpy! (Also, I better tighten up the neck strecher a little... it obviously hangs pretty loose when it isn't engaged!)
We started getting worried texts partway through the evening, and calls from panicked people who didn't know where we were or if we were ok. We heard reports of a mile wide tornado on the ground in Cleburne, and something about Granbury, but we weren't sure about what was going on. We also got a call from S's husband, who told us (to our horror) that a tornado had flown right over the house, missed everything, touched down IN THE PASTURE, and then had picked up and gone off west. He said the hail had been horrific, but he had checked all the windows and the horses, and everybody was ok. P and Immy were undoubtedly frightened, but they came through without a scratch, to my amazement. The rehab barn where I worked for these past few years was also lucky, and even though they took a hit, they only lost some extensive fencing and a few barn doors. None of the animals or people were hurt.
Back at the barrel race, S had her run and did well. O was behaving herself and standing quietly with the other horses, and I was very happy with the way she was behaving. (And only one person had rolled their eyes at me for being in English tack! Hooray!) I pulled up my weather app and checked out the radar, did a double take, and turned to S. "Um, we better get out of here, it's coming," I said to her, and she nodded. We dismounted, walked the horses back to the trailer, untacked, loaded up, and bolted. The lightning at this point was so bright and constant that it illuminated the way for us, and I started in disbelief as we approached another rotating supercell on our way out. We made it only a few miles before all hell broke loose, and sideways hail pelted the vehicle. There wasn't anywhere to pull off or over at that point, so we struggled onward, not sure what was going to happen. I even reached over and cracked another beer, hanging white-knuckled onto the bottle as if it might keep me securely on the ground if a tornado picked up the vehicle. (Obviously I wasn't driving.) We plowed on through the storm, approaching Granbury, wondering what we were going to find.
It was chaos. Ambulances and emergency vehicles, news crews, people staggering around confused, stuff everywhere. We're lucky we got through Granbury on the way out before the storm hit, because it turned out to be the deadliest tornados in years in the state of Texas. They ranked it today as an EF-4... 6 are dead, hundreds are injured, and people are still missing. Hundreds of homes are just gone, nothing but concrete slabs left. Boats from the lake were hurtled into the atmosphere and still haven't been located. Rumor has it that the beautiful courthouse was also struck, but nobody has confirmed that yet. We passed on through, totally dumbstruck and silent as we passed.
One of the tornados in the area went to Cleburne where it turned into an EF-3 a mile wide, the other went right up the highway we were on, overturning vehicles and ripping up trees by the roots. We were shocked, horrified, and totally amazed that it skipped entirely over the barn and their home and away. Once at home, we turned the horses out, and I made my way home in shock, passing overturned semis, enormous pieces of scrap metal from buildings, and huge uprooted trees. It was just unreal. It really was like something out of a dream.
(Some of the damage. That's a downed tree in the foreground. I managed to snap a quick pic on the way to the barn! Check out the completely unharmed donkey!)
I feel so, so lucky and grateful. We were spared, but so many others have lost everything, including their family members and friends. It was like something out of a nightmare.
Today, I hugged and kissed all of my girls and told them how grateful I was to have them in my life. Mother Nature is powerful, beautiful, and terrifying, but yesterday she was merciful as well. My heart goes out to everyone affected, and I am so thankful to be here right now writing this. It could just as easily have been us, but it wasn't. We're alive and well today, and honestly it's nothing short of a miracle.