After a wonderful day spent relaxing and visiting with my grandma, day 5 of our move was finally upon us. Mr. Envoy and I got ready and packed up, and my grandma made us coffee and scrambled eggs to have before we hit the road.
As we ate we watched the news to see what was going on with the weather. Neither of us had dealt with tornado weather before, and although we’d had clear skies on the way to my grandma’s and almost the whole day we had spent with her it didn’t look as though we were going to be as lucky on our trip to Chicago. We would be driving through the rest of Nebraska, all of Iowa and Illinois, and to top it off it was going to be our longest day on the road of the entire move.
So we watched the news to see what to expect. There were thunderstorms near Omaha, NE and as we were heading back inside from putting some bags in the cars I heard something I really wish I hadn’t: a tornado had touched down northwest of Pilger, NE – a town that had been hit by twin tornadoes only a week or so prior.
I don’t know how long the tornado was on the ground, and although it was too far north of the I-80 for it to be of much concern to Mr. Envoy and I it still made me nervous. It wasn’t the fact that there was a tornado in Nebraska because that unfortunately was pretty commonplace, no it was the fact that there was weather out there that was capable of producing tornadoes and naturally we would be heading for it.
I was sad (and let’s face it, completely nervous) to leave, but Mr. Envoy and I had to get on the road. So after a very long hug we left my grandma’s house for hopefully what will not be the last time and made our way back north to the I-80.
As we headed for Omaha we got spat on a bit here and there and the skies were filled with grey clouds that just looked like they wanted to dump rain all over us. When we reached Omaha we were both ready for a coffee and bathroom stop, so we navigated our way to a Starbucks in downtown Omaha. The only big cities that I had been to before moving to New York were San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco and Omaha does not look anything like them. Yes it looked like a big city, but there was something about it that still felt like it was reminding me we were in Nebraska and that 5 years before I had seen cornfields elsewhere in the city and to not forget that. But I’m digressing :P
After grabbing some coffees we found our way back to the I-80 and into Iowa. I managed to snag a picture of a sign that Mr. Envoy and I had started seeing in Omaha and that had us laughing. It read:
“DRINK + DRIVE = STUPID
DON’T BE STUPID”
That’s a pretty good sign if you ask me! Why do we not have signs this blunt in California? I think they’d be quite effective! Or maybe I just like the idea of a sign calling people stupid. Either way… XD
Somewhere in Iowa (I think the off ramp sign mentioned something about a town called Antique City?) we ended up having to pull off the I-80 because we had driven into a really bad storm. Before we drove into it we noticed that everything got darker, far darker than we had seen storm clouds get. It was so dark out that it was hard to tell if it was day or night.
At first there was no rain, just this eerie blackness that had settled in on top of us – which of course had me super worried. I’d seen Twister enough times to know that we were driving into nothing but bad, and dang it if I wasn’t right. I ended up mentioning to Mr. Envoy that this had been a day when I would have been overjoyed for him to prove me wrong, because let’s face it, who wants to be right about tornado weather?!
Little by little the rain started coming down until it was pouring. The wind was pushing my little Toyota Matrix around on the interstate like it was a rollerskate (which I suppose it kind of is, just a rollerskate that can fit a concert grand pedal harp :P). As the rain came pouring down I constantly had my eye on the skies and at times I could see the clouds moving very quickly to the right of us (which was south-ish). The storm was a fast moving one so I hoped that if we kept going we would drive out of it quickly. But that’s when the hail started.
I had heard about this storm on the news before leaving my Grandma’s house, and the weather-guessers had been predicting at least golf ball sized hail out of this. Key words there are ‘at’ and ‘least’. My car is 10 years old, so not new by any means, but I’d only had it for about 2 months so the idea of dents or broken windshields from the hail wasn’t terribly appealing. As the hail got worse I radioed Mr. Envoy that I was starting to get concerned. I reminded him of the scene from Twister where the hail got super bad because they were close to the tornado and how I didn’t feel like reenacting that scene, so after driving a bit farther to see if we could get out of it we decided that the pounding from the hail and barely being able to see each other on the road that it’d be best if we got off the interstate and let the storm pass.
As it turned out we had super good timing because we both needed another potty stop (I guess the previous coffee stop hadn’t been the best idea), so we went in turns. The downside to us actually needing to do this though was that we had stopped at a McDonalds parking lot with about 25 other cars and had to run through the pouring rain from across the entire parking lot just to get inside. Mr. Envoy let me borrow his big jacket to try to save the top part of me from getting drenched, but my poor ballet flats and jeans didn’t fare nearly as well.
While we waited for the storm to pass I turned the heater on and took my drenched shoes off and set them near the passenger floor heater so they’d start drying out and I called my dad. I had really good timing with my phone call because he had just gotten off the phone with my grandma who was terribly concerned about Mr. Envoy and I because she had heard on the news that a tornado had been spotted near Des Moines, IA (where we were heading for lunch) and was hoping we weren’t there yet. Thankfully we were still about an hour out of Des Moines at that point, and he was glad that we had decided to stop and let the storm pass.
After about 30 minutes the storm had passed us and we decided it was safe to get back on the road, so we cautiously made our way to Des Moines. The whole drive there the skies pretty much looked like this:
I kept checking in with my dad off and on to see what was going on with the weather and to let him know of our progress so he and my grandma wouldn’t worry. We got to Des Moines with no trouble except for spots of rain here and there and decided to stop at Quiznos for lunch. As we ordered we chatted with the guy making our sandwiches and he said that about an hour before we had gotten there the tornado sirens had gone off twice and that there had been two tornado warnings.
For those of you that don’t know the difference between watches and warnings, let me share what I picked up on this move. If there are watches it’s not that big of a deal; all a watch means is that there is a possibility of something happening. So if you see a ‘tornado watch’, that just means the storm is capable of producing tornadoes. However if you see a ‘tornado warning’ that is something to take seriously. A warning means that the type of weather being warned about has been seen and is actually occurring. I’ve never really needed to know the difference between watches and warnings back in southern California, but it seems that pretty much everywhere else it’s an important thing to know!
My dad had mentioned that another thunderstorm was on our tail heading into Des Moines and that we shouldn’t dilly-dally too much there, so after topping off our cars with gas and having a few bites of lunch we got back on the road. We drove through more spots of rain and could see a lot of flooding in the fields off of the interstate. Areas that I’m sure had been previously full of grass and other plant-life had been turned into lakes with rushing water. At one point I even thought I saw a funnel forming straight ahead in the clouds, which were thankfully quite a distance away. Mr. Envoy didn’t want to scare me but he’s pretty certain that he also saw a funnel to the right of us (to the south of the interstate) at one point during our drive. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had because after getting to Chicago I found on article online about the storms we drove through and a tornado had indeed touched down somewhere in Iowa. If you want to read more about the storms we drove through, check out the article!
Once we hit Illinois and picked up the I-88 toll road into Chicago, the drive was especially smooth and boring. We finally saw some clear skies as we went over the Mississippi River (and yes, I did just spell that out in my head as though I was back in elementary school to make sure I spelled it right >_>), although it did continue to sprinkle rain on us here and there all the way to Chicago. I really wish I had been able to get pictures when we actually got to Chicago because the initial storm we were in that had made us pull off the interstate had gone all the way to Chicago and lit up the sky for us as we made our way downtown to our hotel. It was quite the sight seeing the sky lite up with purple flashes amidst the skyscrapers! But unfortunately I was too busy making sure that I didn’t lose Mr. Envoy in all the city traffic, and let’s face it… I hate driving in major cities so I would have been too busy being stressed out to get pictures >_<
After what had been a very long and worrisome trip we had finally made it to our hotel in downtown Chicago. We unloaded both cars and while Mr. Envoy took our things up to our room I took both cars over to the valet parking next door. That’s the downside to getting a hotel downtown… the only parking option was valet, and with two cars that got to be a bit pricey. But it worked out because we had booked a night at the Hotel Indigo 2 weeks early so we got the room for $99 (rooms usually go for $200+ a night), and let me tell you that hotel was gorgeous! Our top floor room didn’t have a view of the city (I was hoping it would so I could get pictures of the lightning for you guys) but it was so cute! If you ever have the option of staying in a Hotel Indigo, I would try it. My oldest sister stayed in one in downtown San Diego a couple times and has loved it!
Since I forgot to take a picture of our hotel room before all of our stuff was piled all over the place, here’s a picture I took from the hotel’s website of one of their king-sized bedrooms (which is what we stayed in).
We got the animals settled in for the night and decided instead of trying to go out to a local pizza place so Mr. Envoy could experience both the elevated rails and a Chicago deep dish pizza, we would just order the pizza for delivery and skip the train. We were far too tired and it was too wet and cold out for us to even want to venture outside of the hotel. Us being too tired turned out to be very good idea because the storm that had been following us into Des Moines earlier that day ended up following us all the way to Chicago and before long we could hear thunder echoing down the chimney and into the fireplace in our room (Yes, our room totally had a fireplace! How awesome would that be in the winter?!).
After getting our amazingly delicious pizza and watching some Ghost Whisperer on Netflix, we passed out in our super comfy bed watching our room occasionally light up from the lightning and listening to the thunderstorm happening above us. What a day!
<3 and harp strings,