Severe Weather
Marion, Arkansas
April 28, 2010

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We pulled out of Fredericksburg, TX on Wednesday, April 28th and started for Effingham, IL.  The plan was to hold up for about a week in Effingham before moving on to the Dayton HamVention in Dayton, OH on May 10th.  There's very little to "do" in Effingham other than sit back and chill out.  And after all the hectic activity in the Texas Hill Country we were looking forward to that.   We decided to drive 4-to-5 hour driving days which meant a 4-day, 3-night drive.  Stops were "planned" (as much as we ever plan anything) in or around Waco, Texas, Texarkana, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. 

During our first overnight near Waco, TX we discovered that we had missed a very strong storm that had rolled through the campground two nights earlier.  We saw the results of what was reported to have been 80-mph straight-line winds.  One occupied, pop-up trailer had it's roof ripped off and impaled onto the electrical hook-up post resulting in at least one minor injury.  A stroll through the park revealed quite a few damaged RVs, most with minor damage such as ripped awnings and bent or broken TV antennas.  We talked with one camper who related the story of a couple in a motorhome who spent the storm trying to hold their slide-out room open.  The wind was trying to force the room in and in the process allowing water and wind into the camper.  Another RV was scooted sideways, enough to bend the hydraulic stabilizer jacks.  We were thankful that we had missed this storm by "that" much.

Friday, April 30th found us checking into the Memphis, TN KOA in Marion, Arkansas.  We knew from watching the weather that rain, a lot of rain, was expected to start that evening and continue throughout the weekend.  But we were only going to be there for one night so we weren't all that concerned.  It started around midnight and continued unabated until we were able to leave later that morning.   I was awakened around 1am by one of the loudest thunderclaps I've ever heard...I thought for sure that the lightning bolt had hit very close to the campground but the power stayed on.  I was up for the next couple of hours watching the local TV coverage and the weather radio on Yahoo!  By the way, the TV coverage of the storm, its progress and all of the warnings was the absolute best I've ever seen. 

I was back in bed around 3am when another very close thunderclap woke me up just after 4am.  At the same time we received a tornado warning for an area just south of the campground.  We both got dressed, alerted the friends we were traveling with and prepared to evacuate the camper.  I kept a close eye on the TV, the radar screen and the night sky.  There was nearly continuous lightning and very, very hard rain.   We never did evacuate the RV but I was closely watching the TV, plotting storm spotter reports on a map and tracking the progress of those cells.  Everything was staying south of us and moving away from us but the activity was uncomfortably close to us.  Had the TV and Internet access been unavailable I expect we would have evacuated but the campground did not have a proper storm shelter and in the event a tornado would have come through, or close, we would have been in a bad spot.  The activity room at the campground would have been marginally better than our motorhome.  By the way, most campgrounds we've been in do not have proper storm shelters.

When the severe activity and rain died down at about 5am, I took a short walk through the campground and found water.  Lots and lots of water.  A lake, with a current, had formed at both ends of the row we were parked in.  I spoke with a couple of tenters who had been flooded out during the storm and who had sought shelter in the activity room.  Many RVs were up to their axles in water.  By comparison, we were high and dry.   By 6:30am the rain and wind had subsided enough so we thought it prudent to get while the getting was good.  The forecast was for more rain, wind, lightning and hail.   As we were heading north on I-55 we picked up a new tornado warning for an area south of us.  We wee all very happy to be heading north.

We encountered nearly continuous rain, sometimes light, hard at other times, the whole drive between Memphis and Effingham.  But just as we reached Camp Lakewood in Effingham the clouds parted and the sun made an appearance.  But we weren't through with severe weather just yet...later that evening a tornado watch was issued for Effingham County and we had some light rain.  But all in all we were very lucky.  We had encountered severe weather in Missouri last spring in a campground near Joplin.  During that storm a tree crashed down on a motorhome parked not too far from us.  We enjoy traveling in the spring but can do without the severe weather.

Our campsites, relatively high and dry

We missed this storm by two-days