I’m from Houston, which means I can recall quite a few major storms wreaking havoc on my psyche as well as causing actual damage. Summers mean tornadoes and hurricanes, and I dreaded battening down the hatches every time a potentially dangerous storm threatened to roll through our area. Actually, I’m pretty sure my bedroom window in my parents’ house still has dried-out residue from when we duct-taped all the windows prior to Hurricane Rita, which was supposed to be Houston’s version of Katrina (but wasn’t, fortunately).
In short, I’m personally not a big fan of big storms.
But none of that matters, now that I’m a photojournalist.
When tornado warnings cropped up and strong winds began hurtling through York County last Friday, my editor had me head toward the potentially affected areas. As he directed me, on the phone, to head from Red Lion through Winterstown and then toward Shrewsbury, he concluded with, “Above all, be careful and aware of your surroundings.”
He later (today) revealed that he had visions of my car getting lifted into the air — with me in it. At the time, I was more concerned by the amount of water on the road, how I could avoid hydroplaning and whether I’d make it to Spring Grove in time to cover their commencement ceremony for two newspapers.
As I made my way through the waterlogged roads of southern York County, I happened upon some tornado damage. Except, I didn’t know it was tornado damage.
Pieces of Styrofoam littered the road, so I followed the trail with my eyes and saw, just off the road, that a big metal roof was blown off a home and a large tree branch had been split from the trunk. I turned off the road to check out the damage, but there was no one anywhere. No emergency crews, no puzzled or distraught homeowner. There wasn’t a way for me to quickly ascertain whether that damage had just happened or occurred a while ago. I returned to the main road.
Then, emergency vehicles passed me going in the opposite direction. So I turned around and followed them… right back to the house I’d just checked out.
I didn’t find out until a week later (today), but turns out I’d encountered the only confirmed tornado damage in the county.
So I made some pictures and talked to the homeowner (no injuries)…
…and then went on to Spring Grove to photograph graduation. Which, I suppose, will be my next blog post.