The Rockport Miracles - Part 4: Episode 6: "The Ballad of Derecho Dan" Continues
Storm 5.4 was a real pisser. In truth, they’re all pissers but, some have been worse than others. This particular storm had characteristics the meteorologists call “complex”. A typical Rockport storm features straight line derecho winds that rocket through storm alley and sound like someone is blowing hard on a one-reed harmonica. “Complex storms” happen when extreme low and high air pressures meet for coffee over Lake Erie. Working together with the water, the jumbalaya of weather elements spawn tornados that spin off in all directions like snakes from the head of Medusa.
Complex storms have a distinctive sound of their own. They sound like Casey Jones blowing on a one reed harmonica while driving his locomotive straight through your house. When the city’s emergency sirens started blaring at 3:15am, Little Dan and Wilmena didn’t understand that the roar they heard was Casey Jones steamin’ and a rollin’ right up their front sidewalk!
Wilmena awoke like a shot and found Little Dan in his bedroom trying to coax a terrified BD out from under his bed. Little Dan couldn’t snare him so he upended his entire bed just as the window next to it exploded. Fortunately, the mattress took the entire blow. Then, with BD in hand, they beat feet down the stairs in hopes of reaching the basement. Wilmena didn’t make it. The tornado destroyed the front porch of their house and sent a large wood splinter through the bay windows and straight into her chest!
Little Dan was already halfway down the basement stairs when he realized Wimena wasn’t behind him. “MA!” he screamed, “MA! WHERE ARE YOU?” When she didn’t answer his call, he threw little BD into the open clothes dryer to shield him and ran back up to find her. Just as he reached the top of the stairs he heard crackling and crunching noises that sickened his ears. They were the sounds of the entire top half of the house being ripped away. The old plaster and lattice board ceiling above Little Dan began falling all around him. He dove for cover just as a 300 lb. chunk of plaster quite nearly clobbered him. Still, the tornado wasn’t done. Reciprocating back and forth between the houses on their block like a pinball bouncing against bumpers, the twister ripped away the kitchen and sent it flying into the detached garage.
Desperate and disoriented, Little Dan crawled on his belly through the wreckage of the living room until he found Wilmena underneath the upturned arms of Big Dan’s favorite chair. She was in great distress. Though still conscious, she had a 12” piece of splintered wood sticking out of her upper chest and was coughing up bright red blood. “Big Dan (cough) covered me with his chair to protect me,” she said. “It’s a miracle!" Little Dan was horrified and screamed, “I’m gonna pull that thing out!”
Wilmena pushed him away, “No-No!” she yelled, spitting blood as she did. “My lung will go flat like a tire if you do. Leave it alone until I get to a hospital!” Little Dan became hysterical. “I don’t know what to do!” he sobbed, “I don’t know what to do!” Wilmena placed her hand on Little Dan’s bowed head and tried to comfort him. “I guess they’ll be no tuna salad on the menu today,” she said laughing weakly. As always, Wilmena’s attempts at humor had a calming effect on Little Dan’s emotions, if only for a moment. Little Dan looked up and was jolted by the sight of a clearing sky full of stars instead of a living room ceiling. “SOMEONE PLEASE HELP MY MOTHER!!!” he yelled. "PLEASE--SOMEONE SAVE MY MOTHER!!!"
“(cough)...I love you Little Dan,” said Wilmena, struggling to breathe. Under the stars as the warm summer weather returned to normal and rescue sirens filled the air, Wilmena whispered, “I love you,” one more time before her eyes closed and her body went limp.
The Rockport Miracles-Part 4: Episode 7: “The Ballad of Derecho Dan” Continues
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©2019 Illustration by Greg Budgett
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