Close calls

by Andrea Elizabeth

I suppose one could start at the end when recounting a trip. “Start” being the word if one proposes to proceed toward the beginning, which is not certain at this stage. Facebook provided the easier venue for little smatterings of trip memorabilia, but not narrative, which the end seems to warrant more than even the middle.

We got home at 12:30 am last night. Pretty good timing if you consider the route we took south of Dallas to avoid the tornadoes and hail. I guess it added about an hour, but a stressful one.

The whole trip (well there’s some back-shadowing) entailed periodic and unfulfilled yearnings, on my part, for Bar-B-Que. Smoky Mountain cabin cooking took up most of the meals, with occasional half healthy, half un, fast food along the way. But when we got back on Texas soil, the eastern part, I suddenly remembered a striking Bodacious Barbecue establishment on I-20, just north of Tyler. I looked it up on my google map app and it was 15 minutes away and dinnertime. So we stopped and as we were eating our sliced and chopped beef or turkey sandwiches, we noticed on the red and purple spectrum-only TV screen that there was a darker red blotch covering the DFW area and garbled voices talking about the airport, shelter, and broken glass. After we finished, we decided to get clearer info on my iphone in the car. Initially the bottom of the hail and high wind producing storm was along I-20, which was our chosen route through and past Dallas/Ft Worth. But as we got closer, the storm started veering southeast. It began to be clear that we would meet each other in Terrell, just east of Dallas, so we dove south on FM 47. It seemed that if we then started heading west towards Kaufman on 243, that we would be safe. But the lightning was still ahead and south of us, so we decided to go south again on 2515 and again west on 1836. The radio and my weather app started to report a tornado warning in Kaufman county, so instead of staying on 1836 which would veer back northeast to Kaufman, as all roads in that area do, we plunged again south, still in dry but windy and lightning conditions, on 1895, which surprisingly goes just a little further south to Kemp, where the Monastery of the Nativity is. We considered finding shelter there, but turned west again on 2860, still hoping to get around the thing.  I thought surely it would pass by by then so as to take its more directly northern veer to Kaufman and on back up to 20. But no, the warnings in that area got more severe, so we Y-ed back down on 1386. Half-way down that south-westerly route, we turned west again toward Scurry to shortcut on a little dirt road that sported fallen branches, and, George swears, one floating one. For reasons of rivers, I suppose, the only options in Scurry were north east toward danger, or south east towards booneyville. We chose to take 34 down to Ennis, and hopefully from there back west and north. By the time we got to Ennis, new storms gathered and created a diagonal red line from Goldthwaite in the South Texas hill country, up through Paris, way north-east of Dallas toward Texarkana. Our only option was to pick a spot to play Red Rover. Turns out, in Ennis, 34 intersects 45, which goes diagonally southeast from Dallas to Houston, providing an x-axis crossing of the storm in it’s narrowest point. As we hurried northeast to beat the approaching stronger lower leg of the storm from the west, we only got about 5 minutes of rain, no strong winds nor hail. And it was smooth sailing as we rejoined 20 west in south Dallas. The weirdest thing was, that as we kept listening to the warnings, they reported tornado touchdowns and warnings in Kemp (where the monastery is) and on almost all the specific roads we initially took to bypass 20 in opposite order and after we took them. It felt personal. If we hadn’t stopped at Bodacious BBQ and seen the warnings, we probably wouldn’t have turned off our free trial of XM radio to listen to the weather until we were in the middle of it, which would have been too late.