My husband became Director of Civil Defense, now known as Emergency Management, two months before we were married. Under his direction was a group called Skywarn. These were people, spotters, that went out and watched the formation of clouds and reported high winds, hail and tornadoes. The base station was located at one of the fire stations. We usually had two or three people working with one answering the phones and county radio, one talking to the spotters on the CB and the third person would be there for relief, if needed.
Not having any sirens to warn the city, he began working on correcting the situation and at the same time talking to the local CB club because they showed an interest in becoming spotters. Setting up 14 different locations around our town so that if one of the spotters saw something another could confirm it. The group also had ham operators that would go out past the range of the CB club and report back to the base station what they saw. They could also let us know if we had something really bad approaching town. Within a few months, he was able to place sirens throughout our town.
One evening dispatch called our house to let us know that we had an approaching storm. My husband and I left for the fire station to set up for weather watch. Most of the spotters were listening to their scanners and were going out and asking where they were needed. I was usually the one to call and send the spotters to their locations.
We were listening to the radio traffic, when dispatch called my husband on the radio and told him they had a possible tornado on the ground south of town. He left to check on it, leaving me to listen to the phones and answer the radio if he called. I checked with the base operator and he reported that nothing was coming in from the spotters.
During the time that my husband was at the station, the mayor and a gentleman from one of the radio stations was visiting with him. They stayed at the station after my husband left to check on the storm.
After a short time, my husband called in on the radio and reported that there was excessive hail in his area about 3 miles south of town. Spotters near his area began reporting the same. Reports kept coming in periodically from him that the hail was getting worse and he was going to have to pull off the road because visability was getting worse. Pulling off the road he noticed that several vehicles had done the same.
Not hearing from him for awhile, I began to wonder what was happening when he called on the radio. He was telling me that the hail was getting worse and at this point, I was unable to hear him very well. The mayor and the man from the radio station were in the same room with me and they are talking so loud that I was unable to hear what was being reported. I turned the volume up to hear him and they began to talk louder. I turned to them and said, "Shut up! I can't hear him." With shocked looks on their faces, they both took my advise.
With the room finally silent, I called my husband to get a report and find out if we needed to blow the sirens. When he tried to answer, I heard nothing but the sound of hail hitting his vehicle. He was driving a Plymouth Trail Duster with long window panels on both sides and a window halfway down the back. I advised him that I was unable to hear him. Without a response, we blew the sirens.
After the weather watch had ended and my husband was back in town, we became aware of the reason we were unable to hear him. The National Weather Service had reported two tornadoes in his area. One had passed to the south of his vehicle and the other one just yards away to the north. What I thought was hail hitting his vehicle was actually the winds from the tornadoes blowing his windows out. God must have been watching over him that evening.
The mayor told my husband that he'd never been told to shut up before and couldn't believe how calm I stayed with all that was going on. She just turned and said, "Shut up! I can't hear him." and went back to calmly calling you on the radio.
©Karen A J Rinehart
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