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To the power of 12

2 years ago

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Mel Nichols | Journalist


27 December 2022

Sometimes you’re just lucky. One afternoon in June 1993, on a lonely road in North Dakota, the cards came up for my wife Wendy and me. We were loping west across the Great Plains, just beyond Rugby, the geographical centre of North America, when we saw a tornado coming.

On the horizon, a wall of cloud, miles high, was turning a vicious purple-black as it tumbled towards the prairie and rolled north to cross our path. Lightning forked across its surface in huge, crazy patterns. I punched the weather channel button on our Jaguar XJ12’s radio. Frayed by static came the weatherman’s drawl, eerie on the airwaves like the Voice of God. Tornados, he warned, slowly enunciating the counties in danger. Keep listening, the Voice said. Be ready to go to your shelters.

What do you do if you’re in a car, Wendy asked? We stopped at the next gas station.
’Hell, buddy, just get outta that thingand lie flat in the ditch,’ said a big-bellied rancher filling his F-150. The grass-filled expanse between the carriageways of US-2 took on a new meaning. It was no longer just a place for police cars to hide.

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