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Arkansas-Takes More Than a Tornado To Get Us Down

Photo Credit: Randy Ashley, DVM
Photo Credit: Randy Ashley, DVM

I’ve seen it on the news in the United States, and I’ve received messages from friends in the UK, Ireland, and other parts of Europe checking to make sure I’m ok after seeing coverage of the massive tornado to hit Arkansas on April 27.

The tornado was rated a “high-end EF 4,” meaning it was just shy of being an EF 5 (the rarest and most destructive of all tornadoes).  To be classified as EF 4, the wind speed is 206 to 260 miles per hour. With it being a high-end EF 4, I imagine the winds were more in the 250-260 mph ballpark.  It carved a 3/4 mile wide path of destruction 80 miles across the state, from the southwest to the northeast.  The tornado’s path can be seen from satellite images from space. The tornado ended up killing 15 in Arkansas alone, and after seeing first hand the destruction it left in its wake, I’m amazed (and truly thankful) more people weren’t killed.  Tornadoes are just part of life in Arkansas in the Spring.  You hear about them touching down, destroying a few homes, and within a few days you go on with your normal life, the tornado merely a distant memory.  That’s the way it USUALLY works.  Not this time.

This tornado had my down in its direct path. The national Weather Channel was announcing for my town to take cover immediately and that Reed Timmer, storm chaser extraordinaire, was chasing the storm that would later produce the tornado…straight for where we live.  My family got our dogs, a few cushions and pillows, and took shelter in a small hallway with no windows or outside walls.  The safest place we could have been in the house.  Keeping up with the storm’s track via the TV blasting loudly in the living room, the local meteorologists noticed that there was a “radar indicated” tornado.  We hear this all the time, but it almost always turns out to be nothing more than a wall cloud that never drops a tornado.  We still knew it could happen anytime.  A few minutes later they said, “That’s not a radar indicated tornado, this thing is on the ground.” They could tell because the weather radar was picking up what’s called a debris ball.  That’s when the tornado is on the ground and is so big and kicking up so much large debris it can be seen by satellite and radar technology.  Looks like a storm cell with a long hook on it with a circle directly in the hook.  That’s when you know it’s a bad one.

They said it was headed toward my town, take shelter NOW, then then everything outside when deathly still.  That’s a pretty good sign a tornado is imminent.  The lights flickered multiple times, and according to the meteorologists, we had several minutes before the tornado would reach us. Being the curious (and downright stupid) person I sometimes am, I had to get a look. I left the discomfort of the shelter (try cramming 3 people, 4 dogs, and a mass of couch cushions and pillows into a 3 x 7 foot room) to get a look at what was going on outside.  It was still and quiet.  The only thing I noticed was what I thought was lightning. Then I noticed the lightning wasn’t coming from above me, but from the ground…and it was blue.  Then it registered that what I was seeing was transformers blowing and power lines being hit.  That’s when I knew this was really serious.

I ran back inside, got back in the “hidey hole” as we southerners call our designated tornado shelter spots, and waited.  The power went out. We felt it was about to get ugly. My mom was able to pull up a live stream of the local weather team talking about the storm on her iPhone and much to our relief they said the storm had taken taken a turn and was making a more northeasterly track. It appeared my town would just barely dodge the bullet if the tornado continued on its track.  Well, it did just that and once we realized we were in the clear, we emerged from our hiding place and things got real.

Through twitter, I was able to keep up with where the tornado was going and what it was doing.  I was seeing things like “Mayflower hit hard,” “3/4 of a mile wide,” and many places I see and shop on a regular basis were gone.  I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that these buildings where I shop, these restaurants where I eat, these landmarks I see every day and take for granted…simply weren’t there anymore.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. It was unfathomable to me.

Then they said the tornado was headed straight toward the town of Vilonia, which had been badly damaged by a much weaker tornado 3 years–and two days–before.  Mayflower was hit hard. The area it hit there missed my home by about 4 miles.  What it did to Vilonia, however, was worse.  A mass casualty situation was announced and all emergency personnel was called up.  The national guard was called up.  Most of the deaths happened in Vilonia.  The tornado that hit my state April 27 left one of my acquaintances dead and one of my friend’s homes (and her cars and all her belongings) completely destroyed.

My town was as far west as you could go on Interstate 40 for a few days (although at that particular location, I-40 travels North/South for several miles before switching back to East/West).  It’s still backed up for miles with people slowing down to look in disbelief at all the devastation.  I finally made it to Conway, the town north of where the tornado hit, to run some much needed errands yesterday.  I was blown away by what I saw.  Here are some instagram videos I took of what can be seen from Interstate 40 east at Mayflower:

Part 1
Part 2

This doesn’t even begin to do justice to what these hard-hit areas look like.  The thing that struck me most, more than the mangled buildings and cars crushed like soda cans, was something that I couldn’t get on film as it was on the westbound side of the interstate.  A business called Mayflower RV took a direct hit by the storm.  There were RVs and campers, mangled and in huge piles, strewn for hundreds of yards.  I had visited there with my family a few years before looking into purchasing one.  We met a nice man who told us about how his home had narrowly missed being hit by the tornado that hit the town of Vilonia the first time in 2011. We were there shopping a few weeks after that tornado occurred.  He mentioned how worried they were that the business had been hit that time and were so relieved when it hadn’t.  This time, however, they weren’t so lucky.

We had actually just been back there recently looking at campers again, and the very same man helped us look.  I couldn’t believe the place was gone.  As I drove by, I noticed that someone had forged through the mountain of trees, debris, cars, and campers to place an American flag where the sales building had once been.  A symbol to all who passed that they would come come back better than ever, as is the spirit of the people of this country when terrible things like this happen.

The second thing to grab my attention was, right next to Mayflower RV–just to the south–is a vacant, wooded area.  I noticed that there was an approximately 200 yard wide swath of trees that had been snapped in half.  Right in the middle of the trunk.  They weren’t blown completely over, just snapped in half like matchsticks.  And these weren’t saplings. They were 50 and 100 year old trees with trunks 2 and 3 feet in circumference.  All across the area, the trees that weren’t snapped in half or blown completely down were completely bare.  Every leaf stripped from their limbs.  Many had pieces of metal wrapped around them, showing the obvious direction the wind was coming from.  Photos, mail, and other personal items from the towns hit by the tornado were found 80 and 100 miles away.

The thing that impresses me most is the giving, helpful spirit of people since the tornado hit.  People from all over are coming in droves to help clean up the mess, take away all the remains of homes knocked completely off their foundations, cut the trees away that are blocking our roads, and bringing supplies of all kinds to hand out to families who have nothing.  It’s amazing the good that people are capable of if they would just reach inside themselves and let it out.  Neighbors helping neighbors…strangers helping strangers.  It’s a beautiful thing to witness.

Here’s a look at the footage from CNN just after the storm hit.  The reporter was not yet aware of the damage still occurring to his east.  He only had preliminary category reports for the tornado based on what had occurred in Mayflower alone.

Help is still needed.  If you live in Arkansas, there are countless donation sites.  Many churches and hotels are accepting non-perishable food items, water, and other personal items.  They are also still desperately in need of people to loan out their chainsaws, tractors, backhoes, and anything else that can help clear out debris on a scale so massive.  If you don’t live in Arkansas, you can still help by donating to the Red Cross.

Visit this website ( American Red Cross ) , select Donate Now on the right side of the page. You can be sure your money will be used to help people in Arkansas, as well as Mississippi and Alabama after they were hit by tornadoes on April 28.

 

New Mac Owner Seeks Advice

So, after two years of serious research, wishing, hoping, praying, begging, crying, etc…I finally have sitting on my lap a brand new Macbook Pro with retina display.  I am in heaven!  I’ve seriously been working toward getting one for a little over two years, but I’ve wanted a Mac ever since college when my roommate came home with one.  I had a piece of crap Dell with a 30 pound monitor, you know what I’m talking about.  Giant tower computer.  Then she comes in with this thin, white, streamlined computer with a strange looking keyboard and I was in awe.  It was beautiful!  Luckily we were good friends and she let me play on it. An offer I took her up on quite often!

Well, now that I find myself with my own Mac, I’m having some minor adjustment issues.  I was hoping to reach out to other Mac owners in the blogosphere for some helpful advice!  First of all, while I desperately wanted the 15 inch Macbook Pro, I just couldn’t justify spending the money for it. I ended up spending almost as much as one costs, but that’s because I had a couple of add-ons to purchase.  If I had bought the 15 inch with those add ons, I’d have been pushing $3,000…and I just can’t spend that on a computer, even if I had the money. Nope. Anyway, I was wondering if any of you former PC users who switched to a 13.3 inch Macbook ever got used to the smaller screen?  I’m slowly adjusting to it for web surfing and everything, but when I start working on photo editing and video editing, I’m not sure I’ll ever adjust to this small screen. Please someone else with a 13 inch Mac tell me I will!

Another few how-to things I was wondering about:

  • How do you save images from the internet? I could just right click and save on my PC…now I don’t know how to do it…
  • How do you save videos? Whenever I find a YouTube video of an episode of something I like, I used to save it with Keepvid…I can’t use it on this computer for some reason and was wondering if anyone with a Mac has a way of saving Youtube videos…
  • Also, what is a decent screen recording program?  I sometimes record my screen to make how-to videos for things…but I don’t know a good screen recorder. I spent the money on SnagIt, but it wasn’t what I thought it was, and the video it records won’t open in Photoshop, where I edit some of the videos and make gifs.  Is there a screen recording program that actually works?
  • What’s good video editing software? I am happy with iMovie for now, but I have some bigger plans for the near future and was wondering what some other YouTubers or video editors use on their Macs?  I didn’t spring for the Final Cut Pro because I didn’t know enough about it…any suggestions welcome!

Well that’s about all the begging I can come up with…I hope someone finds time to respond!

Update

So, I thought I’d provide a little update on my current condition, as many of my twitter and blog followers know I am going through a tough time physically.  I injured my back at work a few weeks ago and the problem is progressively getting worse.  I had to see a doctor in the emergency department while visiting my aunt in Dallas, Texas.  He wanted to send me immediately to a neurosurgeon in Dallas because of the severity of the problem and the symptoms it was causing.  I won’t go into detail about the symptoms I am experiencing as they are of a sensitive nature, but they are very necessary functions I would not want to lose.

I explained to the doctor that I was not a resident of Texas and, if possible, would prefer to begin the treatment process in my home state of Arkansas.  He agreed, but urged I seek medical attention immediately.  Well, immediately wasn’t in the cards for me, as it took nearly three weeks to finally get in to see the surgeon.  I made an appointment with a surgeon the day I returned from Texas, and she could not see me until today.  Upon interviewing and examining me, followed by a series of x-rays, she was very concerned and ordered that I have and MRI as soon as possible.

I am extremely claustrophobic, one of my many quirks, so an MRI is practically my worst nightmare.  The test itself is not that bad.  It just involves having your body slid into a tube with literally less than an inch of space all around you.  If you open your eyes, the ceiling of the MRI scanner is literally right in your face.  I was reluctant to undergo this test (of which I have been through numerous) but agreed because I knew it was essential to discovering the extent of my injuries.  I informed the doctor I am extremely claustrophobic so she was kind enough to provide me with “sedation” which consisted of two Xanax to be taken upon arrival to the MRI center.  After taking the medication, I only became more nervous!  It didn’t work for me!  Anyway, they managed to keep me calm by covering my eyes and plugging my ears.  Finally the Xanax made me slightly sleepy and I managed to get through the first part of the scan.  Then they pulled me out to do a second part of the exam with contrast dye.  I was injected with the substance and that’s when the trouble began.  The contrast caused an unusual and very uncomfortable reaction.

Almost immediately I started experiencing a headache that got worse very quickly.  By the time the scan was finished, I had a headache that can only be described as being as painful as a full-fledged migraine.  It was HORRIBLE.  It also caused severe pain in my left arm, where the dye was injected.  The pain has subsided a bit since then, but my arm is still in agony…as is my head.

My doctor was in surgery today, so it took forever for her to finally have the opportunity to read the MRI and start the process of treatment.  She called my mother directly (I was literally unable to speak at the time due to the massive headache, pain, and nausea caused by the test).  She was quite concerned with the scan, which showed damaged disks at the L4-L5 and L5-S1 levels.  She is going to have to see me again on Tuesday, April 24 to discuss my treatment.  I have to take even more steroids, which I have already been taking–only these I now have to take are much stronger–and they have done quite a number on my body already.  I also have to take numerous other medications for the pain, the nerve damage, and very strong antibiotics for  a lovely infection I have acquired as a result of one of the problems this injury has caused.  The nerve irritation is also causing severe muscle spasms in my legs so I am also forced to take muscle relaxers to deal with that aspect of the problem.

To sum it all up, at 29 years of age, my body  is in the process of completely falling apart.  People my age do not generally have to deal with problems of this nature.  I have found it very hard to maintain a positive attitude through all of this, as hard as I’ve tried.  I wasn’t able to face it or cope with it today because as soon as I arrived home from the MRI I went straight to bed and slept the rest of the day.  I was unable to do anything else.  So, the road I’m about to go down is still uncertain.  There are a number of treatments I am going to have to undergo and a number of others I have to consider having as well.  I am facing long-term medication, epidural spinal injections, and even  major back surgery.  Not to mention the sickness and nausea that accompanies the huge pile of medications I have to take.  I have a long way to go, guys.  I’ve been pretty down, but after finally waking up and the headache improving some allowing me to put everything into perspective, I am starting to feel better about the whole thing.  There is no way to avoid it so I might as well put my head down and charge into it full speed.  I will get through this, and the help and support of my friends has and will continue to be the greatest gift and medication I can receive.

I appreciate each and every one of my friends and readers for your kind words and offers of support.  My love to you all.  I will continue to blog as often as possible, which may be frequently as I am not able to work at all right now.  I am currently seeking jobs in the nursing field that will allow me to work from home or from an office (all I’m allowed to do at the moment), that will also give me time to work on my next degree, which will be in graphic design.  I plan on leaving nursing and going into another field that I believe will be equally satisfying for me.

Thanks again!  And if anyone happens to read this and knows of any jobs like those I described in the preceding paragraph, please do let me know!