After viewing the film In the visitors center we exited the building to find that the rain and wind had picked up a little. We decided to get an early lunch at the Catfish Motel which was just around the corner. Hopefully the storm would blow over while we were eating and then we could tour the Shiloh battlefield. On our short drive to the restaurant we encountered a downed tree but it was passable on one side. We often travel in heavily wooded National Parks and we’ve learned that trees sometimes fall in the road. So we didn’t think too much about this one. When we got to the restaurant their power was out. The wind and rain were steadily increasing so we decided to make our way out of the Park and return on a clearer day.
As we turned onto the main road the rain and winds picked up dramatically and suddenly we were in a straight-line wind storm. In a matter of a few minutes nature flexed its impressive muscle and we experienced the rapid destruction first hand.
Multiple trees were blown down all around the Park. Massive ones covered every road leading into and out of the Park. We didn’t have any tools with us that could cut limbs or chains that could drag them out of the way so we drove around in circles, feeling helpless, like everyone else. We kept hoping that by the time we got to the next downed tree someone might have shown up to clear it away since the last time we came to look at it.
I called 911 and the dispatcher informed me there were trees down across several towns so it would be awhile before they made it to the area we were in. Feeling trapped and out of control is not a feeling I’m used to dealing with. I had to keep reminding myself that we were safe and it could be much worse.
After about an hour we stopped circling and parked on top of a hill in the direction of home. From this position we could see the efforts being made to remove the two trees blocking the road down which we needed to travel . A group of men were trying to move one of the trees with a truck and chain. After a long while they finally had one tree moved enough to pass by one end. They were just starting to work on the second tree when someone showed up with a chainsaw. I called him “Superman”. In a short time limbs were cut and cleared enough for passage and a trail of vehicles began passing through.
We thanked the group of men as we passed by and headed toward town hopeful we would make it home before dark. That hopefulness lasted until we turned left onto the next road and encountered a power line down across the road. We turned around and headed the opposite direction, went a short distance and the road was blocked by a massive tree. We drove down every little road we could could find, tree after tree blocked our route, often with power lines mixed in the branches. Finally one of the people working on cutting up a tree told us how to work our way out to one of the main roads. Hope set in again, but when we got to that road a tree and power line blocked the way. Finally after picking our way thru unfamiliar backroads we made it to a major highway.
It didn’t take long to see that it wasn’t just the wooded roads that had been damaged by the winds. Town after town we passed through had building roofs blown off, trailers turned over, power lines down. It reminded me of what Florida often looks like after a hurricane.
By now it was starting to get dark and our adventurous spirits had been tamed for the day. We retreated to the safety of home and gave Thanks that we had not been harmed in the storm that raged around us earlier that day and sent prayers for all the communities that were impacted by the storm.
Note to self:
pack a chainsaw on the next trip