I was excited when my father mentioned that his cousin Dominique was getting married in Houston. This was unusual for me, because as a Northerner, I was legally and morally obligated to make fun of the South whenever it came up.
I was excited for two reasons: one, we would be driving there, and I needed driving hours for my license; and two, I’d be missing school. After a few weeks of being thoroughly badgered, Dad heaved an overly dramatic sigh and called the school, informing them of my absence?and we were off!
However, as tar roads turned to trails and prairies to hills, doubts began to creep into my mind. I’d barely even remembered Dominique and her family. Would we be welcome there? Would I be able to understand anyone through their thick Texan accent? And just how many Confederate flags would I see, anyway?
I would soon realize that I shouldn’t have been worried about the Southerners. I should have been worried about their storms.
Let’s set the scene: a wide Texas highway, a 2011 Toyota Corolla underneath the steadily darkening sky, and two nervous travelers. As rain pattered on our windows, the wind began to pick up, and we began to worry. Driving through rain was one thing; driving during a thunderstorm was another.
It didn’t take long for things to become hazardous. Looking out the windows, it seemed as if we were driving through a carwash. Sheets of water cascaded down the windshield and over the road until the car began to slip. Frantic, my dad and I looked around for an overpass, but trying to see out the windows was a task in and of itself?the only time we would see clearly was when bright strikes of lightning would illuminate the dark gray sky. I fumbled with the radio, trying to find a weather station, but only static crackled through the speakers.
At this point, few cars remained on the highway. It looked like everyone else had either deserted the scene or fallen behind. Screeching notifications from our phones read, “TORNADO WARNING. TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.”
Wind buffeted the Corolla, and my dad decided to take a risk and get off at the nearest exit. Miraculously, an overpass emerged out of the dark, and along with other travelers, we took refuge.
The search for a radio station was still on, and I fiddled with the knob until the speakers sputtered out weather updates. We’d never been so relieved to hear the voice of an announcer, who informed us that although the worst of the tornado had passed by us, we still had to be on our guard.
“For those who are driving, be aware of lightning strikes,” the man warned. “Lightning is one of nature’s deadliest phenomenons.”
Comforted by this reassurance, we prepared to head off, the car crawling forward out of the underpass. Suddenly the sky flashed, and, a classroom’s length away, lightning struck down and hit the road. I blinked, the impact so blinding that it had burned into my retinas, and looked at my dad.
“Maybe we should wait a little longer,” he said nervously, and we stayed where we were for a few more minutes before driving off.
The rest of the trip was a nail-biting experience, but we ended up at our hotel safe and sound, heaving our luggage into the room and flopping down on our beds, soaked with rain. We glanced at each other.
“That was scarier than anything else I’m going to see in Texas,” I sighed. My dad laughed.
“Yeah, you’ve got nothing to worry about now.”
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