Not the Story

Far better to have a story, than be the story. Had we just lived through a F-2 tornado? We had. The experience was surreal and over in seconds. The telling will take longer than the twister lasted. On that night, Bill and I hugged each other tight, still in a state of disbelief but very, very grateful to have returned home safe and sound.

Little did we dream, that our quick detour to Doris’s Italian Market, on our way home from the 4 o’clock Mass last Saturday night, would put us in a tornado’s path. There was rolling thunder during the latter part of the service but that was hardly alarming, as afternoon thunder storms had been predicted. When the doors of Saint Patrick’s opened, so did the heavens- right on cue. With thunder crackling above and lightning strikes all around us, we dashed across the parking lot, but we could not outrun the downpour. However, as we drove away the rain eased, thunder ceased and the sky ahead was clearer. When we arrived at the crossroads of Prosperity Farms Road and PGA Boulevard, I asked Mr. Bill, if perhaps we should head home. Mr. Bill was unconcerned, as we had been out in far worse storms and I agreed with him. We drove on. Our destination was nearby, across the Intracoastal Waterway in North Palm Beach. As we waited for the drawbridge on PGA to be lowered, I thought that surely no boaters would be on the water, in this weather. Looking down as we crossed over the Intracoastal, I was surprised to see a line of fast moving vessels, and judging by the waves being churned, they were ignoring no-wake zone. Once on the other side, Mr. Bill took the ‘back way’ into Doris’s via Ellison Wilson, which runs parallel to the waterway. This street has an expansive view across the water to Palm Beach Gardens. The view was dramatic. A narrow yellow band lay along the horizon and the sky above was a solid block of indigo. There were no clouds and certainly no swirling funnel cloud- yet.

Our modus operandi when shopping is, Divide and Conquer. I work the store’s perimeter, produce, dairy, meat and bakery, while Mr. Bill gets right to the heart of the matter, and tackles the wine department in the center. We weren’t in Doris’s long, when the lights began to flicker. That made me uneasy. When the lights go out, the only place I want to be, is next to Mr. Bill. I was ready to leave the veal for another day and make my way back to Mr. Bill, when the butcher stepped out from the behind the case. He calmly reassured nervous customers, explaining that the store had a huge generator, which would immediately engage if power was lost. Then the store went black. As promised, the lights came back on with a whirl of the generator. Veal in hand for the week’s stew, I hastened to Mr. Bill’s side, anxious to depart. I found Mr. Bill in a mellow mood, deep in conversation with the wine rep, who had also mentioned Doris’s powerful generator. That made Mr. Bill happy, for he was enjoying a glass of Ferrari Carrano’s Tresor, from the self-serve wine bar. Although the lights were back on, I was still keen to leave. To save time, once again we parted ways. Mr. Bill lingered to pick up a few bottles of the Bordeaux blend, while I hustled to get cheese and bread, located adjacent to the side exit.

That is when the tornado hit. It struck hard and fast. Seconds after piercing tornado alerts blared from every cell phone in the store, the door by me blew open with a great rush of wind and rain. Wet leaves and broken twigs were suddenly blowing down the cheese aisle. There was a loud bang as a metal display rack, was knocked to the floor. Looking up, I was bewildered by a stream of mist, white as a jet’s condensation trail, snaking along the ceiling, spraying water droplets like a garden hose gone wild. Over in the center of the store, Mr. Bill felt the splash and feared the wind had ripped a hole in the roof. Up in the front of the store, the cashier said her ears popped from the sudden change in air pressure. In the back of the store, strong men tried and failed, to shut the loading bay doors against the tornado’s intrusion and ran for the safety of the interior. All the while, items were flying off the top shelves. Artificial flowers summersaulted past like tumble weeds, becoming part of the swirling eddy. Nothing made sense but when a round metal tray became airborne and was hurtling towards me, I snapped out of my daze and moved! I retreated to the wine section, where my hero Mr. Bill was waiting.

There was confusion and commotion but no one panicked. Miraculously there were no injuries and there didn’t appear to be any major damage to the store. Before we left, Mr. Bill checked with the store manager, making sure that no one was hurt and thankfully, no one was. Once confident, that whatever had happened, had indeed come and gone, we made a beeline for our car and turned for home. The back way in, was now a no way out. The exit was blocked by several uprooted trees lying across the road. Mr. Bill turned the car around and inched onto US 1, carefully avoiding twisted metal road signs and unrecognizable debris strewn across all lanes. We gaped at damaged cars and buildings, a massive carwash canopy was in tatters and trees that were still standing, were shorn off at the top. Traffic lights were out but caution prevailed at every intersection. Police cars with sirens screaming and red and blue lights flashing, sped past, heading in the opposite direction. Waiting again for the raised drawbridge to be lowered, we could hear the wailing of sirens from emergency vehicles, stuck on the other side. Once the bridge was down and safety gates lifted, police cars, firetrucks and rescue wagons flew over the bridge. Help was on the way-fast!

Traveling home with a wary eye on the sky, we returned the call of our worried daughter, Audry. We happily reassured her and her husband Dave, that all was well. Audry who also lives in Palm Beach Gardens, had simultaneously received the same tornado alert. Knowing her parents had gone to church , she tried contacting us, worried that we had dilly dallied on the way home. As we do. We felt blessed to have a caring daughter and to be returning home unscathed. Audry called again the next morning, when the tornado alert sounded at 9 am, checking that her parents were home and sheltering in place. She need not have worried; her night owl parents are seldom out and about, catching worms with the early birds. Her mother was up but the shril warning did rouse Mr. Bill, from his beauty sleep.

Some couples stick together through thick and thin. Traveling together, Mr. Bill and I have stuck like glue, though blizzards, hurricanes, cyclones, earthquakes and now a tornado.

One week later at Doris’s Wine bar.
Mr. Bill points to where we were, when the tornado hit.
Tornado damage
The corner of the building was ripped open and insulation was blowing in the wind.
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18 Responses to Not the Story

  1. Laurie Finnegan says:

    Wow Maureen! How scary! Glad you and Mr. Bill survived unscathed. I don’t miss that Florida weather!


  2. Rae says:

    What a scary experience for you both but glad you got out safe and also managed to take the wine and cheese home too. So well written Maureen and kept us holding our breath to the end. Hope that doesnt happen again any time soon. take care and hugs from us both xx


    • Thanks Rae, it really happened too fast to be scared but I sure had the shakes afterwards! Actually, we didn’t get the wine and cheese , we dropped them like they were hot! and just paid for the meat and veggies. It’s a good thing, that Mr. Bill has ample wine on hand- no fear there! We’ll take care and you two as well! Big Hugs Coming your way. Maureen


  3. Derek n Julia Pirini says:

    We had just watched a movie on TV the other night called “into the storm”, ….. so with this fresh in my mind I send you both big hugs & am so pleased to hear you are both safe after your ideal🥰🥰 I guess Bill was in the better aisle🍷🥂😂
    We’ve had rain off / on for the past week, but nothing quite as exciting as a tornado thank goodness 🤗🤗
    Love Julia

    Sent from my iPad


    • It was an incredible experience and we were completely unprepared mentally, as tornados are nothing we’ve ever experienced. We know how lucky we were. And what a surprise that Mr. Bill was in the better aisle! Stay safe! Love to you and Derek, Maureen


  4. Debbie says:

    I love to read your entries in Travels With Mr. Bill. You have certainly learned how to use beautiful words that clearly describe your scenario. So glad you and so many others were physically unharmed. All of us are getting leery of the extremes in weather that seem to be uncharacteristic of our weather memories. Keep writing, you are doing great.


    • Thanks Debbie, what a lovely complement and it means a lot- I’m tucking it in my back pocket to take out when I’m wrestling with words! I agree about the extremes in weather and pray this isn’t the new normal. Cheers! Maureen


  5. linda smillie says:

    You always tell a great story. But the pictures tell thousands of words

    Please you are ok enough to drink some more wine.

    Hugs from us here.


    • Thanks Linda! You know it wasn’t hard at all to get Mr. Bill to pose last night. He asked , “Is this for the blog”? and happily let me snap as many photos as I wanted, but I did let him have the final approval 🙂 And yes, when he asked that night if I wanted a glass of wine, I said heck YES! Hugs, maureen


  6. Kc Armour says:

    This spring has been very interesting with tornados and storms…
    It isn’t even the “rainy” or “Hurricane “ season yet!
    Doris’s is not a bad place to experience a tornado, if one has to!
    I’m hoping to be gone for the “season”
    So happy you two are okay. ♥️KC


  7. So glad to hear that you are both safe and that you were able to keep hold of the wine and cheese! I always look forward to reading the updates in your life! Love from your NZ lockdown buddies xx


    • Unfortunately we didn’t get the wine or cheese, just the meat and veggies. I was just reaching for the cheese when the door blew and Bill stayed put by the bar, so I could find him. But shed no tears Vicky, you know from our lockdown happy hours, the Longos are always well stocked with both! XO Maureen


  8. Jill Entler says:

    So glad that you and Mr. Bill escaped unscathed! We were at choir rehearsal in church and we continued rehearsing when all of our cell phones went off because there was no place to go!


  9. Janis says:

    Only just found this post in my junk mail….so pleased you’re both OK after this frightening experience. You are a blessed couple 🙏🏻


    • WHAT? I was sorted into the junk mail folder! Hmmmm, this A.I. has some explaining to do. Thanks for you kind words and for NOT mentioning, that Mr. Bill is a bad weather magnet. Cheers, Maureen


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