Jagged black clouds hung ominously in the southwest. Another storm was building in the south. The Wind was getting stronger. Jess Patrick was still fourty miles from home, and he knew the storm was only minutes away.
He turned the radio on to get the weather report, but there was only static. He switched the radio off and slowed down. The pickup was shaking, and he was afraid a gust might suck him off the road.
Jess he gome to Enid Oklahoma for machinery parts. He had taken in a farm show while he was there. All the while he was there it had been sunny. When he headed north, the sky was still clear. Just south of the Kansas-Oklahoma border, clouds began to form and thicken. Having lived in Kansas all his life, he knew how quickly a storm could form in the spring of the year. The sunny day had become dark and threatening within a thirty minute time span.
To the west, a dark rotating cloud dipped out of the sky and moved slowly toward the ground. He pulled off to the side of the road and glanced behind him to be sure another swister wasn't forming behind him. The funnel touched the ground, and it picked up dirt and debris as it slowly moved northest, and in its path stood a farmstead. The swirling black monster approached the farmstead, and as it passed over the barm and outbuildings it devoured them turning them into kindling, and when the twister left the farmstead behind, the two story white framed house reamined miraculously intact. A herd of cattle stamped across the pasture, plowed through a five wire barbed wire fence, crossed the highway in front of him and continued across a wheat field. Jess had seen a tornade from a distance before, and had experienced the aftermath on its fury, but he had never so close to one before.
Overhead thunder crashed, lightning knifed across the dark sky. Rain began to fall in torrent along with nickle and dime sized hailstones. He decided it was best to stay where he was. If the tornado remained on the ground, it would cross the highway up ahead.
He thought of Debra, his wife of eighteen year and their two teenage children. He hoped he would either go to the basement when the storm hit or go to the neighbors. He picked up his cell phone and dialed their number, but recieved no reply.
Within fifteen minutes the heavy rain was reduced to showers. The hail had stopped and the wind had subsided. Jess adjusted his glasses and glanced hoping that another storm wasn't coming, then he drove slowly down the highway until he came to the spot where the tornado had crosses the road. Power poles lay in splinters, and on the edge of the wheat field electrical wires arked like snakes in a mating dance.
Jess got out of his picked and moved a tree limb out of the roadway. The rian had stopped, but in the southwest another storm was forming. There was a black shelf cloud moving in his direction with constant thunder and lighning, and the wind began to intensify. He got back into his pickup and continued north toward Kingston at a moderate speed.
When he and Debra were first married, they lived in Kingston, and Jess worked at the lumberyard and helped his father on the farm. Debra worked as a secretary for an attorney, and also worked part time for a real estate firm. Jess's mother died of cancer while he was in high school. His father had continued to farm until he suffered a fatal heart attack ten years earlier at which time they moved to the farm. Debra had become a full time real estate agent. She would have liked to quit her job to become a full time farm wife, but ith the high cost of machinery parts, fertilizer, fuel along with other expenses, she knew that wasn't possible. With a small farm, Jess worked for a neighboring farmer as well.
He drove into Kingston. He still had several miles to travel before he reached the farm. He decided to stop at the local kwik trip for a cup of coffee to calm his jangled nerves.
He went inside where several people had converged to wait out the storm. He went to the coffee machine and poured himself a cup.
"Have you heard the weather report?" Jess asked the tall, blond woman behind the counter. "Looks like another storm is moving in."
The woman glanced nervously out the window. "I hope there aren't any more tornados," she said. "There are strong winds, hail and heavy rain predicted for the storm that is coming."
Jess nodded and moved away from the windows and sat down in a booth to drink his coffee. Ouside, the wind began to howl and the rain fell in torrents.
Without warning, two window of the Quik Trip shattered, and the wind and the rain poured in. Candy bars, packs of gum, bags of potato chip and pop bottles were hurled across the store. There was screaming as everyonme dropped to their hands and knees. Outside, somewhere on the dark street, the errie sound of a tornado siren blared. It seemed as if the roof of the building was going to be sucked up into the clouds.
The storm abated, and everyone got to their feet to survey the damage. A few people started gathering up potato chips bags and pop bottle until someone noticed that the woman behind the counter was cowering against the wall. She had been hit by several peices of flying glass and was bleeding profusely. A woman called 911 on her cellphone. Luckily nobody else had been injured, just scared out of thier wits. There was a half an inch of water on the floor as Jess slipped through the confusion and went outside. Tree limbs were scattered about along with trash can and other articles, but with the exception of the Kwik Trip, there didn't seem to b any aother serious damage.
To the northwest, the storm continued to spend it wrath. The wail of an ambulance and police sirens came down the street. They stopped in front of the Kwik Trip and and went inside as a few of the people who had stopped to wait out the storm, went out to their vehicles and left. The injured woman was carried on a streacher from the store to a ambulance, and with its siren blaring, drove back down the street in the direction of the hospital.
Jess got into his pickup andf continued his jouney home where he hoped Debra and the kids were safe. Rivers swirled through the streets cartrying garbage cans, a small cycle along with toys and debris.
North of Kingston, hail covered the ground and highway making it look like the middle of winter. The strip was about a mile wide. Jess breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing that the main part of the hailstom hadn't reached as far north as his farm.
As he turned off the highway onto the gravel road which led to his farmstead, he saw that there were no lights on in the two story white farm house, but the mercury light was on in the middle of the yard. The barm and the outbuildings were intact with the exception of a shed which had a sheet of tin blowed off its roof.
He parked the pickup and walked to the front door of the house to see it was locked. He unlocked the door and went inside to see Debra's cell phone lying on the kitchen table. Jess sighed deeply as he realized she and the kids had left in a hurry. He would call Wes Anderson, a neighbor who had built a new house ten years earlier and had installed a large storm shelter where his neighbors went when a big storm was brewing. He started to dail the number when he heard a car pull up in front of the house.
He glanced out the window to see Debra and the kids getting out of the car. Jess went out on the porch to greet his family as they rushed toward him.