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Living in the Midwest naturally I have a few tornado related stories. It's the one weather event consistently attributed to our region and as we live in tornado alley it makes sense. The closest I've ever personally been was when we lived south of Belton and were camping in the back of the property.

My friends Andy. Mike and Jason came over to my house to camp. We were excited and eagerly setup in the SE corner near some trees. Nobody thought to check the weather forecast before we went to sleep but in the middle of the night the wind became so intense we were forced to sleep along the edges to try and keep the tent in place while the frame shook violently above us. We talked about making a run for the house but the rain was so intense and we were worried about our belongings so we decided to stick it out. A short while later we saw a flashlight and heard a faint voice trying to yell above the storm. As the light approached I realized it was my father. He gave a stern command for us to leave everything and follow him and one look at his face told us that we shouldn't hesitate. Barely able to see through the deluge of rain we followed in a line behind him glancing back occasionally to make sure that nobody was lost (Jason was bringing up the rear). It was about 800' to the garage door but it felt much further walking into the wind with the rain stinging our faces. When we finally arrived at the open garage door we saw my step-mom and grandmother waiting nervously. They all ushered us downstairs into my bedroom in the basement. We were absolutely soaked and unfortunately my guests clothes were all out at the camp site so I loaned them each dry alternatives (these being humorously too small for Mike and too big for Jason).

Being in the basement we were pretty well insulated from the weather outside but while taking a shower the power went out. Luckily we had planned for this and had plenty of flashlights. None of us slept very much but the day yielded sun and we went out to survey the damage. Most of the belongings were thrown asunder and the tent was wrapped around a tree a good 20' in the air. We never did find Mike's bag and what was recovered was completely soaked. The weather radar showed that the tornado only touched down briefly and almost a mile away but there was enough damage in this area we were all thankful my dad forced us inside.

Another notable twister experience I had came when I worked at Worldspan and Dave was just an infant at home with his mom. We were still living in Warrensburg and I was making the more than an hour commute each way to work while we waited for our lease to end. Storms rolled through the area one morning when I was still in training and there were tornado warnings to the South. Knowing I lived out that way I was given the option to go home. We didn't have the money to turn on the phone at home and Andrea didn't have a working cell phone (I don't remember the cause of that) so I quickly accepted the offer to leave.

I had two options to get home, one via 13 hwy entering Warrensburg from the North or coming down 50 hwy from the West. Since there was construction on 13 I opted for the more heavily traveled 50 hwy. Once I got past Lee's Summit things went a little haywire. The sudden storms had caused flash flooding in the low lying areas and traffic could not get through. Folks were parked on the highway standing besides their vehicles looking at the large puddles of water were the road lay below it.

Seeing this concerned me and the radio made things worse announcing a tornado had touchdown in Warrensburg but not announcing any street names or landmarks. I started down backroads turning around up when I hit a dead-end caused by flooding or down trees. And so I went poking and prodding my way creeping East. I stopped at a gas station near Pittsville and called the McDonalds in Warrensburg. Andrea and I had worked there until recently and was hoping they might know something. The staff on hand that day didn't have any sight about her or the tornados location though and my tension rose another level.

Eventually I made it within the city limits and drove by a trailer park witnessing a doublewide that had been smashed to pieces and neighbors standing around staring at the wreckage. I later discovered the owners were out of town and were unharmed but in that moment my fear reached new heights. Driving rather erratically I rolled through stop signs and peeled around corners till finally I saw our apartment complex as I topped the last hill. Everything appeared intact and I afforded myself a dash of hope.

I parked the Explorer and ran upstairs, unlocked the door and charged into the room. At that point seeing the building in tact I should have known everything was ok but I had so much tension built up I was running on adrenaline. My sudden and unexpected arrival startled Andrea who was holding Dave and was about to feed him. Without explanation I walked over and wrapped my arms around the two of them. More or less oblivious to everything that had been going on she was shocked to hear of the tornado as apparently the sirens never went off near her. We got the phone reconnected soon thereafter and a few months later moved to Riverside.


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