You really can’t travel through the central states this time of year without encountering some thunderstorms, and this year they are popping up like spring mushrooms. Last night was our first encounter, starting with an enormous BANG at 3:25 a.m. that woke us all up. It was one of those “way too close for comfort” sort of lightning strikes, and I won’t be surprised if later this morning I discover a shattered tree in the campground.
In these situations an Airstream is a great shelter, being an aluminum shell, so unless there is an imminent threat of tornadoes, we just unplug the laptops from the local power grid and check the Doppler radar to get an idea of the severity of things. Last night’s line of storms was pretty active and some tornado damage was reported, but from the radar view I could see that we were getting just the southeastern end of the line. By the time we were awoken by the Big Bang, the worse was over.
We’ll see more rain today on the highway toward South Bend — it’s virtually unavoidable. Once we are moving I’ll be watching for high winds and suspicious cloud formations. If it gets funky out there, we’ll pull over and try to park the Airstream in the lee of a large building or under an overpass. Hail is the most typical cause of severe damage, but you can never find a shelter when you need one, so the primary consideration is just staying alive if the weather really turns nasty.
We’ve had a few close calls in the past. I remember caravanning north on I-75 through Michigan after Airstream’s Homecoming 2005, and Eleanor watching the weather radar on the laptop as we rolled north. Ten minutes before a major line of storms blew through, we exited the highway and found a relatively sheltered spot for the Caravel, then watched the drama unfold from the safety of a nearby restaurant, complete with flying tree limbs. In 2008, we had a tornado blow right past us and had to take shelter in a Wal-Mart. A Class A motorhome in the same parking lot as our Airstream blew over onto its side in that episode. We were also threatened by tornadoes at a rally in Myrtle Beach SC once, and spotted a nice little tornado spinning by at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado. Hail has hit us in at least three different states, but never large enough hail to dent the trailer fortunately.
OK, so let’s look on the bright side. Today will hopefully be much less eventful. The Airstream has now had the last of the Arizona dust washed off of it, including the solar panels, so I don’t have to climb on the roof to clean them. We have no leaks, unlike last year at this time. And the weather forecast in Jackson Center seems to be FINALLY turning to sunshine for all of next week, which will be great for Alumapalooza. A dry week in Jackson Center would be a very welcome miracle.