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Tornado or Hurricane - which would you prefer?

Updated: 6 days ago

Story by Randy Grathen


Laurie and I have now experienced both. “Been there, done that, got the T-shirts” as the saying goes. If you want a potentially quick death, choose a tornado. A tornado takes minutes to do its dirty work and moves on. Our tornado, when we lived in Missouri, was a high F-4 (207 – 260 mph). You can read about that adventure here.


On the other hand, waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked, by a killer turtle.


The hurricane took about 12 hours to run its course. Because of the southerly drift of the storm as it came ashore, the Eye Wall, the most destructive part of any hurricane, ground past us at 10 mph for six hours! Our hurricane Ian came ashore as a Category-4 packing winds estimated at 154 mph, just shy of a category-5 (156mph), with wind gusts as high as 208 mph. We were told it was a 500-year storm event. Small consolation. On the other hand, we probably won’t be around for the next one.


Our house is nearly thirty years old, has single pane windows, and older construction technology which doesn’t meet today’s building standards for hurricanes. The good news is our shingles were replaced a little over a year ago, so they held up well. However, our pool cage, soffits, facia, downspouts, three-month-old privacy fence, and trees did not. And my smoker wound up in the bottom of the pool.


Our sliding glass patio doors were repeatedly hit by sheets of rain that totally obscured the view outside. At the height of the storm the bottom of the doors jumped the guide tracks and water began to spray under the bottom edge with each new blast of water. There was just a ¼” lip of aluminum securing the doors against the onslaught of the wind. If the doors jumped that small lip, the wind would have blown the doors into the house, and we would have been flooded out with nowhere to go. The canal, and our pool both had whitecaps on them.



“So, why didn’t you evacuate?!?”

Because we were told it would come ashore as a Category-3 (111 to 129 mph) and the Eye was supposed to pass right over us. By the time it grew to a four, it was too late to escape. The authorities were telling people they had to ‘shelter in place.’


Just before dusk the winds and rain began to subside, and I was able to clearly see the canal behind our house. We live just four miles from the gulf coast. Twenty inches of rainfall and gale force winds drove water up the 100 ft. wide canal dragging debris with it. Moving at a jogger’s pace, it had risen six feet overflowing its banks to nearly four times its normal width. The storm-surge high-water mark eventually came just four feet shy of flooding into the house.


But here’s the thing, this story isn’t about what happened, it’s about what didn’t happen.


"What didn’t happen???"


Other than some water damage and some missing pieces and parts of our home we’re fine, and so is the inside of the house. We will need new drywall and paint and maybe some new carpet in two rooms. But other than that, it’s livable. We got running water back 2 days after the storm with a boil order, electrical back on the 5th day and finally internet after our provider brought in 2 portable towers about 10 days later.


We didn’t lose a bunch of shingles, so the roof didn’t leak. No windows or doors were breached. The pool cage is gone but we don’t need it. Same thing with our fence. We had water in the attic that we drained into buckets, about 20 gallons worth, and dried out everything with fans. There is nothing to prevent us from living comfortably in our house while we wait our turn to have repairs made.


We had a generator and plenty of fuel, so we were able to keep a few lights, fans, chest freezer and refrigerator running; three hours on, three hours off. There was a camp stove, barbeque grill and a Wok station for cooking. My smoker was still in the bottom of the pool, but we had everything we needed to sustain ourselves.


A couple days after the storm Laurie and I were talking about how “lucky” we were to have the generator in the first place, when we both suddenly realized this was one of those God orchestrated events. He knew (of course He did) a year in advance we were going to need that generator.


The only reason we had it is because the year before we moved to Florida, we bought a travel trailer. We decided that we might want to Boondock (camp off the grid) at some point, so we bought the generator. Well, we quickly learned that owning a travel trailer was more work than we imagined so we sold it a year later, but the generator came to Florida with us.


"You have to choose to believe"


Most God stories are about the things He does that one can see, or a specific event that one can point to and say, “that was God.” Miraculous healings, walking away from a deadly car crash, surviving a fall out of a high lift, (you can read that story here. Ya, that was me too.) surviving a tornado or cancer. But, one can easily talk themselves out of believing in the miracle over time as the event fades into our past. People start to justify the outcome as random chance, luck, or coincidence.


Recognizing something that God didn’t allow to happen is even more subtle and requires a greater depth of trust and discernment. How many times do we give God credit for things that didn’t happen?


Laurie and I have lived out enough events in our life that we are learning to find those nuggets of gold in the things that happen or don’t happen in our lives. If we look at the event knowing that God had His hand in it the whole time we usually, in retrospect, arrive at the truth of what happened and why.


Don’t gloss over events in your life as random chance, luck, coincidence, or karma. If you look at the event from what was God doing, you’ll find He leaves His fingerprints all over the place for you to find.


God said, It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you nor forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8



To see some of the aftermath of Ian and Rotonda West where we live,

watch this 60 Minutes segment.



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