Thursday December 20th 2018
Today was all about the weather. The latest cold front moving in off the gulf brought strong winds and heavy rain. It rained lightly off and on over night. Around sunrise the first line of thunderstorms arrived. The sound on my roof was loud enough that even at full volume I couldn’t hear the TV from ten feet away. Thunder and lightening punctuated the rain from time to time.
Around seven thirty the first severe weather warning was issued by the National Weather Service. A tornado warning was issued for an area five or ten miles north of my location and moving away. I am familiar enough with the counties, towns and roads in the area that with good information I can localize the threat pretty quickly. When you aren’t familiar with an area you’re at the mercy of the graphics on TV or the radar image on a smart phone. The TV was useless this morning. Either the station didn’t have the right graphics software or the weather talker on duty was inexperienced. It was probably a little of both.
The first wave of storms was gone by nine. Three to five inches of rain were reported around the area and the main wave of storms was still moving in from the west. Walking around the outside my RV during the lull in the heavy rain, I found puddles four or five inches deep behind my RV. The campground loop road was also flooded not far up the road from my site. Before the day was out there were reports the county route from the campground back into Sarasota had flooded areas too.
Around eleven this morning the weather radar showed the next line of storms was moving inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The rain and wind were picking up outside my RV. Around eleven twenty the weather radio and my cell phone both went off with alerts. A tornado warning had been issued. One of the areas mentioned in the warning was Myakka State Park. It’s a big park, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I grabbed my weather radio, cell phone and bicycle helmet and went across the street to the bathhouse. Four or Five other people had chosen to take refuge there as well. It’s a concrete block building that provides some shelter from the wind.
There may have been some wind rotation in the area, but it wasn’t at ground level. The threat was over after ten to fifteen minutes. The challenging part was finding a lull in the rain and navigating around all the big puddles to get back to my RV. The worst of the storms were east of the campground by early afternoon, but light rain continued the rest of the daylight hours. The TV continues to issue flood warnings and wind warnings for tomorrow.
I always have an idea of my options for shelter when I arrive at a new place, but this is the first time I elected to take shelter from the weather. This summer in the tornado prone states of the mid west I was lucky. The severe weather was always somewhere else while I was there. After I had moved on I heard of severe weather in the areas I had already traveled through.