We all have experienced a storm, whether it be snow or rain, at one time or another. The storm that passed through Central Ohio on June 30 2012 was one of epic proportions. The storm was expected but what was not expected was the dangerous voracity at which it came in to town and blew out.
It was a HOT Friday morning, the third or so day of 93+ plus degree weather and the kids and I were at my parents’ home in Apple Valley. We were busily getting bathing suits on and lunches ready for a day on the boat. Being on the boat always brings fun; fun in the sun, fun on the beach and fun in the water. The kids and I just love our little get-a-ways to Apple Valley.
Once the boat was loaded up and the kids were slathered with sunscreen we were on our way to our first stop; Davis Beach. I wish I had a back story to tell on how the beach received its name but unfortunately I do not so I'll carry on. My dad always rams the pontoon boat a shore so we can easily hop out and into the water, so this day was no different. Once the boat was a safely on shore the sandwiches, chips and water bottles got set up on the table and the kids, grandparents and mommy dug into our lunches. Once lunch was gobbled up it was swim time! The kids were taken off the boat by gentle loving hands of their grandma and placed in their inflatable floating rings. Once the kids got situated into their floaty toys the day of giggles and squeals of happiness began. Of course the inflatable ring that has been around since Sam was a baby finally took its last swim as a hole presented itself and Mary was left floaty-less. Sam stepped up and won the honor of "Best Big Brother" award for giving up his inflatable ring to let her swim in. He grabbed himself a blue "noodle" and restarted his fun in the water. Well that ring getting a hole has proved to be a blessing in disguise because Sam started to finally understand kicking legs and moving arms equaled swimming! We were so proud that he figured out how to use his legs and arms together, albeit on a "noodle" but you got to start somewhere right?
Our time at the beach had come to end since we all wanted to get back on the boat and enjoy a ride. Apple Valley Lake is 3.25 miles long and covers 9.25 miles of shoreline. It is 511 acres, has an average depth of 30 feet, and a maximum depth of 70 feet. We cover just about every inch of the lake when we're there! There are these inlets where more homes and docks are but it's also an area of the lake that is safe to anchor your boat and swim, which was exactly our next stop. Mary again got Sam's inflatable ring, Sam strapped on his life vest and clung to his "noodle" just like the rest of did, minus the life vests. We swam and fed ducks for quite some time until we realized it was getting late in the day so we decided it was about time to start heading back to the dock and back to my parents’ home. We all climbed up on the boat, grabbed towels and dried off in the sun.
As we were cruising back to the marina I started to strip the kids of their wet bathing suites and dress them in dry shorts and shirts. Once we docked my parents coved the boat, threw out the trash and hopped in the very hot van. Luckily my parents don't live too far from the marina so we were back in in the cool air of their home quite quickly. The kids got set up with their coloring books and crayons while I took a shower and packed up our belongings in the van. Around 4:45 we pulled out of Apple Valley to head home at which the same time I realized my skin had started to sting with the sunburn I received that afternoon.
As soon as I began the drive home both kids fell fast asleep in their car seats, as I had fully expected; what I hadn't expected was the sky to turn the color of midnight up ahead of me. After I realized that I was driving directly into the midnight sky I grabbed my phone to check the Weather Channel app. But before I could tap the icon for the app, my phone rang. The picture of my husband appeared on the screen so I clicked the “answer” button and heard a serious urgent tone in his voice, which I don’t hear too often. He urgently asked “Where are you?” I told him “Utica. Why?” My heart started to pound because I knew there was a storm ahead, I knew my precious babies were sleeping, I knew my husband had an urgency in his voice which made me very aware of the fact that I knew I was in the middle of nowhere corn field country and about 8 miles away from the next town. As I drove through Utica, passing gas stations, a Subway restaurant and a family diner my husband told me “I need you to get off the road NOW! There is a storm coming towards you with 80mph winds and you could get blown off the road. This is serious! You need to find a place to pull over NOW!” I was now fully alarmed and fully realizing that I just drove through a safe haven; Utica. As I got on the other side of Utica my gas light reared its ugly head but I don’t even know how long it was on as my panic from the navy blue sky ahead of me had me distracted. I told my husband I would try and make it to Johnstown (the next town after Utica). He was worried I wouldn’t make it but he also knew that was all I could do next to pulling off into a ditch!
Since I had no idea how long my gas light had been on I checked my gauge that let me know how much distance I had to until I was empty; it showed 12 miles and I had 8 miles until I could get to Johnstown and 18 miles until my suburb of Gahanna. I noticed that the storm was getting closer, fast. The lightening started to streak the sky and the clouds started to reveal an eerie green that had me a little more than rattled. I started to get a little shaky realizing that I wasn’t going to make to Johnstown before the storm. I started scanning my brain for upcoming buildings or businesses that I could pull into and thankfully I remembered that an RV dealership was coming up and I started to breathe a little easier.
I pulled into the RV dealerships stoned drive and noticed a couple of employees already securing the grounds and surveying their property. I had to wake up the kids rather forcefully as they were in such deep sleeps and explain to them that we were going to visit the RV dealership for a little bit. They were kind of confused and kind of excited because what kid doesn’t love roaming through a camping trailer? Once inside I couldn’t find one employee as they were probably all out on the grounds. I noticed that there was a small kids table and chairs with coloring pages and crayons so I set the kids up there while I examined the sky outside. While I was staring in awe out the window at the impeding storm a woman’s voice called out a friendly “Hello?” I turned around and said “Hello! I hope you don’t mind but my kids and I were about to get caught in this storm and I needed a place to stop” and she was very happy to take us in.
My son of course started in with the questions on the RV’s and if he could go in them and check them out. She was very nice and said “Yes, of course”. So I escorted them both over to the first trailer which was situated in the back corner of the showroom next to the large garage door that allows the dealership to bring trailers in and out. While I was standing there talking to Sam who was inside the trailer and Mary who was climbing up the stairs the storm started to rage outside. Next thing I knew the wind had blasted the building and he garage door we were fairly close to rattled and clanked. This noise from the wind caught my attention and when I turned to look at the garage door it had actually billowed inward and rain started to seep inside from under the door. I immediately grabbed both kids in one fell swoop, one kids under each arm and ran over to the parts department where there was no windows and the sales girl followed. The kids started to get curious as to why I was so swift in picking them up and getting them away from the door and so I tried to calm them with the old wives tales of how the thunder was God bowling and the lightening was God’s friends taking pictures of his bowling game.
We were sitting calming at a table in the showroom, away from windows, while the storm raged on. Half way through the storm the dealerships lights went out and the kids’ level of fear went up a few notches and Mary set up camp in my lap for the duration of the storm. Mr. Ron Potts, the owner of the dealership came in to the show room with some flashlights and making sure we were all doing ok and if we needed anything. During the storm I contacted my mom and dad along with George a few times to let them know we were safe and waiting out the storm. About 30 minutes later the storm started to calm as it passed and I received a text message from my husband that I was ok to get back on the road, the storm had officially passed. As the kids and I gathered ourselves, we profusely thanked Mr. Potts and his employees for giving us shelter from the storm and they opened the door for us and gave my kids high fives. The rain was still slightly falling so we ran to the van and I got the kids and I all buckled in and away we went. As we were bumping down the stone drive to exit the dealership and the gas light beeped again to remind me that I needed gas.
We pull back out onto Johnstown road and started to head into town as it was still raining but the sky ahead of us now was back to a normal grey that storms should look like but noticed that everything still seemed dark; dark because there was no power, anywhere. There were trees and debris along the road and in yards and we saw all the sites that you would see after a bad storm. Of course the first thought that popped in my head was, no power, no working gas pumps; then panic rose back into my throat. I checked my gauge and I was down to 8 miles until my tank was empty. My suburb is approximately 8 miles away from where I was so I started praying. Praying that a.) Some gas station on the way home had power and praying b.) That we could just make it home and not worry about the gas stations not having power. The further I kept driving the reality was setting in that no one anywhere had power on any exit on my way home. I kept calling George letting him know where I was and that I my gauge officially showed 0 miles until my tank was empty and I had at least 3 miles more to go to get home. I told the kids they needed to start praying to God that we make it to a gas station. They started a song out of our praying which I can’t remember word for word but remembered it was really super cute that my kids were singing and praying; it lifted my spirits and my stress just slightly. I finally get off on my exit and remembered the series of lights that I had to endure to get to the gas station that is if the lights were working.
As I moved along with the traffic around me I could feel my van starting to hesitate when I hit the gas. I again called George and let him know that I was off the expressway and making my way down the street that led to our gas station. Still showing 0 miles until empty on my gauge my prayers to God to continue to keep us safe never ceased. I ran the red light as I turned left into our gas station, which was light up with the beauty of electricity and buzzing with at least a dozen cars circling looking for a pump. I started to chuckle thinking to myself that here I was at the gas station, running on fumes and couldn’t get a pump and that I might just run out of gas right there. A pump came open and I backed in with a rush of relief and gratitude. As I peeled my stressed body from my van I swiped the credit card at the pump, selected my grade and placed the pump in the hole, pressed the lever and the gas started to flow into my van. As I was holding the pump a sudden and extremely bright flash of light brightened the sky at the same time the loudest boom of thunder I had ever heard in my life had all happened directly above the gas station. The thunder clap was as loud as a cannon and it rumbled for at least a minute after its first initial boom. Everyone in the gas station let out an audible gasp or yelp and I let go of the gas pump in a hurry out of fear and as the hairs on my body were rising I opened my driver’s door to make sure the kids were ok. Their eyes were as wide as saucers and they were speechless but otherwise ok. I finished pumping the gas and then hopped back in the driver’s seat to text George before I pulled away from the pump to let him know that I got gas and that I was on my way home.
As I drove down the street that took me to my neighborhood I noticed more debris and limbs down everywhere I looked. The church down the street from us that hosted soccer games had their soccer nets strewn all over their property; one had managed to get flung into the front yard of a house across the street. I was in shock and yet at the same time felt so blessed. Blessed the kids and I were safe, blessed I was able to get gas and even more blessed when I pulled into my drive and my garage door went up indicating we had electricity. As I pulled into the driveway my husband was pulling up to the curb, home from work. I was never so happy to be home and see my husband’s face in all my life. It was one of the most stressful drives I have ever encountered.
Once in the door I started surveying our property for any downed branches or any damages to our home or outdoor items. Besides a few small branches and loads of sticks everything seemed to be intact and ok. Until I realized the kids pool had blown in the corner of the neighbor’s yard. But again I felt blessed, blessed that this was the only issues we had with our house and belongings. As reports and storm pictures started to pile in on Facebook and Twitter I just sat in awe staring at them. Large maple trees were uprooted, power poles had fallen on cars, and apartment buildings had been struck by lightning and caught on fire. Pictures of semis blown off the road on I-71, businesses, homes and cars were smashed by trees and other debris. But worst of all there was a picture of an intersection very close to my house were multiple power poles had fallen on the ground and cars, their wires were down all around them, cars were stuck in their spots from 5:30 until 11:30 that night. The effects from this high wind thunderstorm were horrifying. About 700 thousand without power, many people hurt and everyone now storm shy.
Power companies from states all over have come to help the Central Ohio regain power. There are thousands that won’t have power over the 4th of July weekend, some won’t even have power until after July 8th, my parents included. I had struggled with the thought of turning back and staying at my mom and dad’s house, but it turned out that was just as bad as where I was, if not worse. Mom reported the next day that certain areas of Apple Valley had some of the worst damage she had ever seen. In 2008 a weird phenomenon happed in here in Ohio, we were struck by Hurricane Ike which blew through here and left most of Ohio without power for 6-8 days. Winds reached 72 mph during the course of a day, this storm had reports of 82 mph winds and the storm blew out in less than 30 minutes.
It has now been four days since the storm and there are still 100’s of thousands without power and the heat index has been near 100 for the last week. Churches, Red Cross centers and many other business and helping strangers have opened their doors, given water and meals to those affected by the power outage and those that may have been left homeless. The generosity that I have seen come from this storm actually warms my heart and shows me that there are still kind, loving helpful people left in our society. My door is open to anyone who needs a meal, a seat in the air conditioning or splash in our kiddie pool. If anyone needs a cell phone charged or to use our computer to check in with family and friends please let me know. If anyone out there needs help cleaning up debris we have a chainsaw and hardworking helping hands. Please feel free to reach out and ask for help, you have help here with us!
May God bless those that have been affected by this storm. I pray everyone is safe and that their power returns soon. I also pray everyone can have a happy 4th of July and enjoy their time with family and friends.