The Closest I Hope I Ever Come to a Tornado

On Friday night we were about 15 minutes from being hit by a tornado. I hope that’s the closest I ever come.

Parker had a game at 6pm that was just wrapping up. They got killed by a team from Oxford (PA, not England). Parker pitched well in relief…I snagged this photo near the end of the game.

As the field crews were preparing the field for the 8pm games I told the umpire that the radar didn’t look good and asked him if he wanted to see it on my phone. He said he didn’t want to. I also mentioned it to one of the the guys working to prepare the field and we looked at the radar together. “We heard it was just going to blow through,” he said. “Well, it could get bad as it’s going through,” I responded, pointing to the radar.

I thought it might just be a strong thunderstorm. I had no idea.

Erica and Kylie left as soon as the game ended. I waited for Parker and then we got some popcorn before hitting the road. It’s a 5-minute drive home and by the time we got there the power was already out. We got a call a half hour later from Parker’s coach asking if we had made it home. He said that a pavilion had collapsed and that there were ambulance crews at the field. I couldn’t believe it.

Now we have the full story.

An EF-1 tornado (EF-5 is the worst, EF-0 is the tamest) came through Lancaster County on Friday night. It wasn’t on the ground the entire time because of all the hills and valleys in its path, but it caused over $3 million dollars worth of damage. It traveled 16 miles in 10 minutes, ending in Paradise Park.

Here’s the screenshot from The Weather Channel homepage this morning with a link to the story. Never a good thing to be on their home page.

Thankfully, no one was critically injured at the park. 12-15 people were treated for injuries, the worst of which was a broken leg suffered by an adult. The entire roof of the pavilion, which we surely would have been under had our game still been going on, blew off and landed on some nearby cars.

Because it was dark out no one could see the funnel cloud coming, though reports said it sounded like a train (incidentally, there are train tracks that run right by the fields). I haven’t talked to anyone who was there yet, but someone posted on facebook that the people under the pavilion were swept off their feet by the wind.

There was definitely a breakdown in communication with regards to the tornado and the weather service. I was watching the radar on my phone and there was not only no Tornado warning issued beforehand, there wasn’t even a severe thunderstorm warning in effect. Had I seen that on my phone while I was at the field, I’m not sure if I would have made a bigger deal about it or not. I hope I would have.

I checked my phone again when we were sitting at home without power. This is what the radar looked like (looks like any other bad storm):

The Tornado Warning was posted at that point, but I’m pretty sure by that time it had already blown through. This was mentioned in an article in the paper yesterday, so hopefully they remedy the communication breakdown for future incidents.

The whole thing definitely rattled me a bit. I’ve stood under that same pavilion before during a thunderstorm. Had Parker’s game gone 15 minutes later, or had the tornado come through 15 minutes earlier, we probably would have been there.

Again, so thankful it wasn’t worse for the folks who were there!

Last October we had a freak snowstorm, this year we had a tornado! Can I put in a request now for the Freak Weather Incident of October 2013?

If so, I’d like record high temps in the 90s please.


8 thoughts on “The Closest I Hope I Ever Come to a Tornado”

  1. Wow! Glad you are safe, Bryan. I can relate (both to having a kid play baseball while storms are coming, and also to being a little too close to a tornado). It’s amazing how those things can pop up with little or no warning.

  2. Our town was hit with an EF-3 in April of 2011. It was extremely scary and I had no clue of the extent of the damage until the next morning. We were just on the fringe and only lost a tree in our yard. Others a quarter of a mile from us lost houses and everything.

  3. Really glad you guys got out of there when you did. Living in Middle Tennessee I have been close to these monsters of mother nature multiple times…had a very low level EF0 go right over my house, had an EF-2 go through the field behind my house, and had my entire youth group at my house when a deadly EF-4 passed just a few miles south.
    What makes you say there was a breakdown in communication?? Just curious, because a simple non-threatening storm can morph into a deadly tornado in seconds. When that EF-0 went over our house there was no warnings issued either…just a simple spring thunderstorm.

  4. I live in North Alabama. I confirm that this will be the closest that you want to get to a tornado. However, looking at that NEXRAD image, it looks like something that spun up quickly and probably disappeared just as quickly. Your local NWS office will have a report in a couple of weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 1) .1mi wide and 2) <2mi in track. EF-1's can be sneaky like that.

    If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to digging a tornado shelter in my back yard.

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