We could feel it coming already on Sunday. The air turned heavy and sticky, the wind blew out of the East. No rain came that night. By Monday the air was heavy with tension. The heavy heat had only intensified and the wind blew hot and cold as the day was at once sticky hot and chilly.
By afternoon weather warnings were everywhere. The clouds were building in the west, small still. Soon the first sever storms were popping up on the Wyoming border, in the open empty country along the Wyoming border up to South Dakota and around Harrison. Still nothing here.
We covered the garden as best we could, made sure the horses shelter was in good shape. They came and helped, looked around a little then followed us back out. We repaired their wind break and picked up any loose toys in the yard, basically battened down the hatches. Still no storm although the sky was cloud covered and the radar showed red getting towards Chadron.
We sat down to supper and finally the storm hit. Big heavy drops first, slow to come, slow to cover the sidewalk. The weather radio couldn’t keep up with the watches and warnings, often interrupting its self to start the new before the original was finished. we debated unplugging things and decided not to worry about it yet. We let Daisy in to cower under the table. I went to see if I could spot the horses, I couldn’t, I did see lightening striking the ground in staccato beat. Each bright flash violently hitting the ground barely beyond the tree row, nearly in the pasture on the hill. Rushing back down to the kitchen I said that I thought we should definitely unplug. That was the end of watching the building storm on radar.
The lights in the kitchen fluttered, blinking on and off. Never all the way off, just enough to be distracting. Then, lightning hit a line somewhere, they pulled down, humming and dim. Then with a crash of nearby thunder they flashed back to full brightness. We were glad to have the computers unplugged.
As we finished eating, interrupted by constant trips up to look out the windows, the weather radio was going insane. Tornadoes on the ground, we listened carefully to hear where they were. Severe storms all around us, yes we could see that. The last of our meal forgotten on the table we watched the pounding rain turn to hail. Few at first, pea sized scattering across the ground as the wind blew it sideways. Then more and larger. Fortunately the larger were few and the wind stilled. Managing to get some signal on his phone my husband worried for his garden and crops checked out the radar. The worst of the hail was going by to the south.
After the blast of hail the rain let up and the lightning slowed. I wanted to go check the horses. In mud boots and a sweat shirt I ran out into the still falling rain and closed the door on the chicks then down to find the horses. Of course they weren’t in the barn, dry with plenty of room. Instead they were squeezed under a fallen down roof, wither high and no sides. I had hesitated at first to even let them into a pen with such junk and hazards but checking it carefully for sharp protrusions I had decided that the extra space was worth the limited danger involved and now it’s their favorite hang out.
Wading out to the windbreak through ankle deep water and mud I called and called for them. If they would just come I could lead them to the barn with safer shelter and more room. They stood, huddled and refused to come out for me. I debated walking out for them and watched as lighting struck, hot and bright, to the ground over the hill in front of me. Looking down at the water surrounding me and at more lightening striking past the trees I called once again and went back to the house. They could have that shelter if it was what they wanted.
All evening the radio gave bad news, as we waited for the second round. Trying to keep children calmed and entertained and finally into bed, we kept half of our attention on the news. A large tornado at Chimney Rock, we have a friend right there. Large hail and high wind at the intersection of our highway and the Niobrara River, a couple miles south. Tornadic storms going through Fort Robinson and Whitney. Still hail and tornadoes stayed away.
The storm finally passed out of our area. The weather radio actually shut off between warnings, until the sound of it became startling instead of background noise.
The next morning we took stock. Nearly three inches of rain. The garden damaged as much by too much rain to quickly as by hail. The corn in the fields is still standing. Amazingly none of our little herd of cattle were hit by lightening. It was so bad and so much I couldn’t believe nothing would be hit. Instead we found full ponds and a nearly deafening croaking of frogs. They seem to appear out of nowhere and went straight to mating. Soon there will be tadpoles. Not all is bad in the aftermath.
Unfortunately everyone can’t say the same. Bayard NE received a direct hit. The nursing home was nearly? destroyed and the town hit hard. A feedlot was also in the direct path of the storm and many pivots twisted and flipped. A pivot repair company in the area is desperately looking to hire short term help. Many homes and barns were in the path as well as livestock, including horses.