Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nebraska Storms are Scary!

 In Omaha, we found a lovely campground- Walnut Creek RV Park, well maintained and with a space for us at the top of a hill. The manager of the camp had set it aside, thinking we'd like a view of the lake,  which we did.  It was a hot, sunny afternoon, and I fell asleep.  Joe didn't want to wake me, and left for the ballpark around 6 PM, only to find there that they'd moved the game time up a half an hour without telling him, so there was 8 minutes to performance time when he arrived! 
That wasn't the problem that defined the day, however.  He had said earlier that he'd planned to take down the awning, which cooled one side of the RV from  the hot sun, as we wouldn't need it at night.  But he didn't want to wake me so he left it up.
I woke to raindrops and a wind starting up and in no time at all the wind was howling and the awning was flapping.  It rocked the RV back and forth as the sky darkened and the wind howled.  I hadn't ever retracted the awning, and panicked, couldn't remember which switch it was.  I pushed a bunch and nothing happened, as the wind howled and I feared that the RV would be pushed over. I'd read enough horror stories of awnings and high wind to know that there was real danger. 

This is the first storm that came through while Joe was at the game.  The next was to be the one with 65 mile per hour winds - a short but powerful burst. 

As I looked out into the lashing rain, I saw the arms of the supports bend and realized that I couldn't do anything. I tried to call Joe but could hardly find the numbers to poke on the tiny iPhone pad, and miscalled three times. when I finally got through, the awning suddenly was GONE.  I was really rattled, and Joe said he was on his way home. Thunder and lightning was everywhere, but at least the RV wasn't rocking as badly as before.
He got home a few minutes later, and said that the awning had ripped off the front support and blown over the RV roof where it sat. We were able to get storm information and the winds were blowing at up to 60 miles an hour. Later, people in the park said that this isn't unusual for the Nebraska plains. 
There was nothing to do but wait.  A huge mercy was that it hadn't broken the air conditioner, which continued to work all night (without it, the humidity and heat makes it almost impossible to sleep.)  It was a little hard getting to sleep, as the thunder continued for hours. 
In the morning, when we could see the damage- all the metal parts were bent beyond fixing - we weren't sure about how to remove it or dispose of it.  At 24 feet long, it's a sizable fixture, and heavy. 

The damage seen the next day- Those supports were supposed to be straight out, holding up the awning. It had ripped away from the front support- you can see it pulled up over the top of the RV. All those metal pieces had to be cut off and discarded. 

And this is when we were so glad we were in a regular RV park.  As the morning warmed, folks walked around looking at the damage from the storm.  Two men, older than we and more experienced, came to chat and offer help.  They brought a ladder and a reciprocating saw (as full time RVers with big pickups, they had just about everything they might need.  We had a lot, but we didn't have a saw.) I retreated to the interior of the RV to let the men work on it.  
As he pulled on the awning to dislodge it, the spring caught Joe's thumb and smashed it so hard that it turned purple and cut him.  It's throbbed for two days now, and he'll soon lose the nail. 
Working together, the three men got the entire apparatus removed, and duct taped the exposed wiring in case we wanted to install another awning again later. Then they cut all the long pieces into smaller sections and one of the men put all the pieces in the back of his SUV and took it down to the park dumpster.  What angels. 

We have the easy days and the harder days, and some days, like today, are a mixture-- and we’re on our way for one of the longest days of the trip- across Nebraska, which in Arby takes about nine hours. 

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