As we were chatting with my mom at her house, the tornado sirens went off. Stupidly, we didn't stop talking about Denver, Macy or what we were going to pack for our upcoming trip to Nova Scotia. A few minutes later Macy, TFitch and I headed in the car for the mile drive to our house. It just started sprinkling at this point. By the time we got out of my parents neighborhood, you couldn't see a damn thing. Wind was blowing rain sideways. It was do dark and dense-feeling, it was almost claustrophobic. Trevor forged ahead in the 4x4 and turned left onto Fort street, where we saw a STOP sign rotating 180 degrees in the wind. Slowly, we cruised down Fort. Cars were pulled off to the side and after we nearly ran into a subdivision sign because of the poor, poor visibility, Trevor decided to do the same. We were sitting at the light at 156th and Fort and at this point it was hailing so hard and was so loud, we both thought the windows were going to shatter. Trevor grabbed my head and covered it, and we both had a hand on Macy in the backseat. Her heart was about to beat through her little furry chest, it was thumping so fast. At that moment, I really, really thought a tornado was going to pick us up or the hail was going to shatter the windows or a streetlight would fall on our car. We sat for a few minutes and Trevor decided he could white knuckle it and we headed home. As we pulled into our neighborhood, he said calmly "Okay, when we get home let's just go straight to the basement."
This storm was absolutely like nothing I have ever witnessed in my 27+ years living in the Midwest. Cell phones weren't working - either because of damage to towers or because so many people were on them. Two people died when a tree fell on the car they were in. More than 126,000 OPPD customers lost power. The Qwest Center, where the Olympic swim trials began this weekend, sustained damage and forced the swimmers into the hallways of the arena after sirens sounded. Water poured into the Qwest, down arena steps and onto the deck of the competition pool. (Ironically enough Trevor's sister's 21st birthday was Friday night and because the Dell, Crescent Moon and other midtown bars we were going to go to had no power, we went to the Mattress Factory across from the Qwest. When we arrived at 9:30 p.m. Kiewit was already on the scene repairing the building.) Friday was also the annual Memorial Park concert and fireworks. People were already at the park when the storm hit and were told to evacuate immediately. Fortunately no serious injuries were reported there.
It's reported this storm had hurricane-strength rain and winds conservatively estimated by meteorologists from 80 - 115 mph. Apparently this was not a tornado, but the damage sure seemed like it was. All of the photos below are those I've taken around the city in the last 48 hours. It's simple unbelievable.
Trevor holding a piece of hail from my parents' deck
Krispy Kreme (120 & Center) lost its awning
One of hundreds of broken/fallen trees (this one at 42nd and Center)
A tree landed on a home (Leavenworth street, I believe)
Mom and dad's neighborhood - a trampoline on the golf course. Pretty sure that is not supposed to be there.
The stop sign at 168th and Fort we saw rotating in the wind an hour before
The wind took mom and dad's patio furniture for a joy ride
Hail damage on mom and dad's gutter
More crazy furniture and hail
Our neighbor's For Sale sign from the wind (still on the market if anyone is interested...)
Looks like snow but it was 80+ degrees outside
Fence at 156th and Fort surrounding our neighborhood
The stoplight at 156th and Fort we were parked under for a while. This was right after the storm. Sky still looks freaky, eh?
Saturday at Big Fred's - they used a generator to prepare food. We ate there and it was surprisingly busy (and obviously dark and no TVs for the watching)
The article is pasted below and be sure to check out the virtual walking tour of this great city. As a product of Omaha (and Millard Public Schools which gets a nod in the article and video), I couldn't agree with Kiplinger's more.
No. 3: Omaha, Neb.
By Marc A. Wojno
From Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, July 2008
PARADISE ON THE PLAINS
Population Growth Since 2000: 6.6%
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class: 30%
Cost-of-Living Index: 89.4 (100 being national average)
Median Household Income: $51,627
Income Growth Since 2000: 15.1%
Don't pigeonhole Omaha as insurance, Warren Buffett and mail-order steaks. This one-time Great Plains pioneer town has a stereotype-busting cultural scene. Walk through north downtown and discover the indie-rock club Slowdown next to Film Streams, a cinema art house. In Old Market, red-brick roads run past open-air restaurants, galleries and chic boutiques.
Funky, yes, but the city's success is defined by its midwestern values. People preach and practice a strong work ethic and modest lifestyle. They also believe in giving back to the community, and that includes the chief executives of the five Fortune 500 companies headquartered here.
Consider the 175,000-square-foot Holland Performing Arts Center. Built with private funding from corporate executives, philanthropists and civic leaders, this $100-million facility is a symbol of 21st-century urban modernism. A 2,000-seat, state-of-the-art concert hall -- with chiseled acoustic panels -- is the place to experience the classics, performed by the Omaha Symphony Orchestra.
And encouraging news: Businesses here are hiring and recruiting young professionals, especially in finance, health care, information technology and insurance. Entrepreneurs can also find fertile ground to make their mark. Rachel Jacobson, 29, who owns Film Streams, says that she wouldn't have opened her theater anywhere else. "Omaha is very open to new ideas."
Omaha continues to expand westward. Venture 10 miles southwest and you'll come to Millard, a suburb known for its top-rated, nationally recognized public-school system. It's a peaceful community with well-manicured lawns, sprawling subdivisions and shopping malls. Home prices are affordable, too. For example, a 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home sells for about $350,000, while a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home goes for about $200,000.
Sales and property taxes are high -- upwards of 10%. But, says Tammy Lane, a mother of two whose kids are enrolled in Millard's public schools, "I love living here. It's the growth and quality of the schools that make the taxes worth paying."
Anyway, guess what. John won the contest and played at Torrey Pines - home of the US Open! Not only did he play this championship course, his foursome consisted of himself, Justin Timberlake, Tony Romo and Matt Lauer. How rad is that!!?? Two weeks ago I actually caught the very, very tail end of his story on the NBC Nightly News. His story has also been on NBC Sports and he was featured on the Today Show this morning. Be sure to check it out.
I think it's a very cool case study on local media helping out a community member. It's also a testament to the city of Omaha, because - while I don't know for sure - I bet many, many people saw his story on TV and voted online. (The winner ultimately was chosen by who received the most votes). It's also great to see an uplifting, hopeful, feel good story after the recent Little Sioux Boy Scout camp tragedy, monumental and devastating flooding in Iowa and the sudden passing of Tim Russert.
Congratulations, John. And riddle me this: are Tony and Jessica REALLY headed toward Splittsville???
Really? REALLY? United (and the other airlines following suit): do you realize you can not carry liquids greater than 3 ounces on board? Do you realize if you are going anywhere for more than a few days - and would actually like your hair to look nice versus using the cheapo hotel shampoos - that checking luggage is almost a necessity? Of course you do and that's why you are doing this: to make money - in a completely asinine way might I add.
This just puts a very bad taste in my mouth. A second piece of luggage - sure, I can understand charging for it. But a FIRST piece of luggage. That's just a money-making tactic. Pad each plane ticket by $15 so the consumers don't REALIZE they are helping to make up for your bankruptcy issues.
The irony is we were talking about something very similar last night. We went out to dinner after golf and my dad asked for a side of pico for his tacos. Tacos and pico - they go together, right? One might expect pico to accompany tacos, right? That's not crazy to think. He was actually charged a DOLLAR for the little condiment cup-sized pico. The dollar is not the issue - the charge period is the issue. Another story came up about my parents' friend who went to a breakfast joint and was charged when he asked for syrup for his pancakes. Just ridiculous. They were not asking for vats or kegs of pico/syrup. Restaurants: you know your customers are likely going to ask for pico/syrup. Raise the price of your tacos/pancakes $1 so when someone says "can I please get some syrup for these otherwise dry pancakes" the waitress can say "of course" with a smile.
I just do not understand businesses that don't think about things from the customer's point of view.
This is not the first area tornado of the year. Just Sunday at 2:30 a.m. a tornado touched down in Southwest Omaha, damaging numerous homes and businesses. Fortunately and amazingly, there were no fatalities. The sirens went off AFTER the tornado touched down, and being that it was the middle of the night no one heard them. (I did because I was still up.) Trevor actually had his crew help out with tornado clean-up Monday because his jobsite was too muddy to work, which I thought was very cool and a great idea on his behalf. And, he was actually interviewed by KFMB-AM. Too bad I wasn't able to arm him with talking points and a little media training beforehand, but everyone who heard him said he did a great job :).
I love storms. I do. Blizzards. Thunderstorms. Whatever. I think I like them because - except for this week - they are rare and a change from the normal. But I forget the threats associated with them. I drove home from Kansas City this afternoon, arriving in Omaha around 5:30. The reason I left KC so early was because I had class tonight - otherwise I'd be driving in the heart of the storm. Thankfully, I and my friends and family members are safe tonight. But unfortunately, this evening's storm doesn't come without sad news. A Boy Scout camp in Little Sioux was apparently hit and at this time four fatalities are reported, with 30-50 injuries. My heart goes out to those with sons, brothers, husbands, dads and other friends and family members there.