Well the big news in Pensacola yesterday was...(pause for dramatic effect)...THE TORNADO!!!
We're used to inclement weather here: Bad thunderstorms, tropical storms and hurricanes. But tornados are something of a rarity. Needless to say, it caused quite a commotion.
They say it was an EF-1 category - in other words, bad, but not too bad. And it wasn't exactly a "classic" tornado, you know, the tall, powerful kind they get in the midwest that rips up mile-long swaths of land and leaves mobile home parts strewn in its wake. This was more like a very big and very low slow-moving cloud that was rotating clockwise (as seen from below) and was spawning little "mini-tornados" here and there. There was some damage (electrical transformers exploding, at least one house destroyed, roofs blown off, signs blown out, cars overturned, etc.).
It had been raining all morning, sometimes very heavily. As usual, I was out and about, driving around, blithely unaware that anything odd was going on. There was very little traffic on the streets for it being midday, which seemed unusual but nothing more. I went to see my friend Alisha at the bank where she works. She was agitated over something. "Didn't you hear about the tornado??" she asked, looking at me as if I lived in a cave (which I might as well). Me: "Uhh, tornado?" Evidently it was still happening.
Then I went to Wal-Mart and it was empty. I got the first non-handicapped spot by the front door. The cashiers were standing out in the aisle, away from their registers, awaiting their next non-existent customer. A few guys that were in there were chatting on their cellphones. I heard a couple of nervous, one-sided conversations that went, "Uhhh, tell me when it's gone, I'm gonna stay here at Wal-Mart until then." (Yeah, like Wal-Mart was a safe place to be in a tornado.)
My friend Gene was just arriving at Pensacola Junior College (PJC) for class. As he was getting out of his car he looked up and saw this low, menacing, rotating cloud right above him. He thought to himself, "That sounds like a train. Maybe I better get inside." See, here in Podunk, we don't think in terms of sneak-attack tornados. We know when hurricanes are coming, but tornados kind of catch us unawares. Inside, college officials had the students huddle in hallways while some doors and windows were blown out. Nearby, a bank corraled their employees into the vault. Bob drove around running errands.
Ironically, a lot of the damage occurred in the PJC/Cordova Mall area. The Pensacola Regional Airport...you remember, the place that is run by idiots...was luckily spared. But there was damage in the mall, and cars flipped over in the parking lot of a Target store, both immediately adjacent to the airport. How it missed the numerous trailer parks we have here in Pensacola, I'll never know. The local newspaper shows the track of the storm. It evidently went very close to my house, not that I knew. My power went out, but my power always goes out whenever it rains...or when there's a light mist...or even just a heavy dew.
I am convinced that when the end of the world comes it will be videotaped. Needless to say, there is all kinds of video of the tornado already up on YouTube. Sadly, all of the videos make us look like foolish, foul-mouthed hicks who think we're all weather experts.