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Close call with tornado leaves everyone thankful

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It was Memorial Day weekend 2004. I was at a barbecue at the home of my boyfriend's parents. The weather channels had been calling for severe storms all day, but it was a holiday weekend! We had to cook out! And drink! Whoo! Seriously, though, the storms started to get severe. Everyone came out of the kitchen or off the deck and gathered around the television.

Some of the storm cells had rotation and were prime areas for tornadoes. We live in Missouri, right on the Kansas border, so we're basically smack in the middle of tornado alley.

For some reason, though, in the middle of a storm, instead of running into the basement we run into the front porch to watch the storm blow in. There's something about watching the clouds roll in, feeling the temperature drop, and watching the trees whip around in the wind that just makes you both respect and fear Mother Nature.

Anyway, this night most of the guys were out the porch watching the storm, while the women were huddled inside, just waiting for the tornado sirens to go off so we could run into the basement without looking like complete cowards.

Then they announced it: a tornado had been spotted touching down about 20 miles outside of town. It was right along the Interstate. My heart started pounding. "Oh my God," I whispered. Then I ran for my cell phone.

With everything that had been going on at the party, I completely forgot that my parents had to work that night. They worked together and took that same Interstate, through that exact town, to get to their job.

"Please answer," I thought to myself, as I dialed their cell phone number. "Please don't even by on the highway. Of all nights to call into work, please say you stayed home this night."

I knew they wouldn't have been able to stay home, though. With it being a holiday weekend, there was no way they would have been able to call in sick.

The phone went straight to voicemail. Not a good sign, I thought to myself. I dialed their house number, and my brother answered.

"Where are mom and dad?" I asked.

"They left for work a little bit ago."

"Damn!" I exclaimed.

"What's up?"

"Have you not been watching the news? There's a tornado outside of town!" Then I thought to ask about our other two sisters, who were both at either graduation parties or a friend's house.

I called both of their cell phones, making sure they were okay. They were both safe, but extremely worried about our parents.

"We're all in the basement over here," my youngest sister said. "We're watching a big screen, though, so it's not like we're in a storm cellar or something."

Finally, my cell phone rang. It was my mom.

"Wow!! Was that a trip!!" she yelled.

"Are you okay? What happened? Did you see the tornado?"

"Did we see it?! We were driving right next to it practically!!"

She went on to tell me about their adventure. They had been driving down the Interstate in a huge downpour. It started hailing, and they almost pulled off the road, but they were afraid they would be late for work. They didn't know if it was raining 40 miles down the road where they worked, so they didn't want to risk it.

"All of a sudden, I looked to the side, and there it was! A huge funnel cloud!!" They pulled off the highway at the small town where every news station had been reporting as the spot where the tornado touched down. The Highway Patrol had closed the Interstate, so they were forced to get off. They stopped at a small gas station and hunkered down with everyone else who had been on the road.

"It was so scary. I've never experienced anything like it. I mean, we saw it! We were close to it! I felt like I was in that movie 'Twister'! Or 'Wizard of Oz'!"

I had to laugh. "Well, I'm glad you and dad are okay. You had me really worried!"

"I was worried too! I'm just glad this didn't happen during the week and you weren't on the highway."

I agreed. That Interstate was also the route I used to get to work during the week. Even to this day, when I drive through that town, I think of that Memorial Day weekend and that tornado. I think of how my parents were so close to something that destructive, and how they got out without a scratch. If they would have left for work minutes earlier, or if the tornado would have been a few hundred feet closer to the highway, it may have been the Memorial Day weekend I lost my parents.

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