Remember those nice, lovely pictures I posted about my Saturday drive? Well, Sunday was not in the mood to play nice.
At 4:30pm it was hailing so hard it was making my teeth rattle. Here is a fuzzy picture of one the larger hailstones that landed on my front steps:
There were larger ones than this out on the lawn, but there was so much lightning I was scared to go get one! At about 7:45pm, I could not resist the siren song of the pizza delivery conglomerates, so I caved in. I went online to Domino's, but they were offline and not taking online orders. I could have called but was too lazy. So I tried Papa John's; same story. I figured that the power was out or something since the power at my house had been going on and off a few times. I then decided that Dairy Queen would nicely fill the void, so I threw on my shoes and grabbed the camera - just in case anything interesting popped up from the hail storm.
I headed down Main Street and got to Hillview where the intersection was completely closed with fire trucks and police cars. You could either turn right and go back up into the Heights neighborhood, or you could turn left towards the river. I opted to turn left, figuring that perhaps the Albertsons parking lot had flooded or something and that was why the street was closed. I turned right on Joyce, which runs parallel to Main Street, and tried to look through the buildings to see what all the hub-bub was about. Couldn't see anything wrong at all! Hmmmm... I continued down the street and turned right on the little street that leads to the DQ; pulled up to the DQ and realized that it was all dark. CRAP! That was when I knew the cosmos was conspiring against me - having fast food just was NOT in the cards for me today!
The DQ is situated on top of a hill; you can follow the road behind it down the steep hill into a large Target parking lot where there is a little strip mall to the right with a MacKenzie River restaurant, a 31 Flavors, Radio Shack, etc. There is a McDonald's at the far end of the parking lot. As I was coming down the hill towards the lot, I was shocked to see that it was pretty much empty except for a few fire trucks, Battalion Commander SUVs...um is that insulation? And...sheet rock? What the...? To the right of the lot I could see clots of vehicles parked, people running to the top of the grassy knoll (no relation) that bordered Main Street with cameras and children in tow. I could see the bright yellow DO NOT CROSS police tape strung everywhere. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?
Well, at the time that hell's fury in the form of hail was raining down upon my house at 4:30pm, a tornado touched down on Main Street. I live about 1.5 miles away; never heard the sirens or anything. No less than six businesses, including the McD's, were either heavily damaged or destroyed completely.
I stood dumbfounded along with many of my fellow neighbors. It's one thing to see something like this on TV, but to see it first hand? It is awe-inspiring. The 18,000 square foot business complex across Main Street that housed a Kawasaki dealership and the owner's sister's active wear shop is pretty much a total loss. The upside? Amid the debris of the ruined building and scattered brand new motorcycles, T-cat, the owner's kitty, had ridden out the tornado and lived to tell about it. The Lake Elmo Coin Op had no windows left, and most of the lettering had been ripped from the building.
Housed in the same little strip were a dance studio and a barber shop - both completely destroyed. Fas-Break Glass is completely destroyed; the roof ripped off and dumped into neighboring Alkali Creek (along with a pick up truck); siding torn off the walls down to the plywood covering the studs. The Main Street Casino and Restaurant is heavily damaged, along with McD's.
For reasons only the tornado knows, it skipped diagonally from the glass company, over the top of the small strip of stores with the Subway and the liquor store, bypassing the large, 3-story hotel that was sitting right there, and slammed into and danced on top of the Rim Rock Auto Arena in the Metrapark. This is the building where Billings holds all of its large venue concerts, rodeos, trade shows, and conventions. The Billings Outlaws - the arena football league team that we are all so very proud of - held its last regular season game there...the day before - on Saturday, with thousands of fans packed in. Most of the 97,263 square foot roof is gone or collapsed; the building is a total loss. It will have to be completely demolished and rebuilt because it is now structurely unsound.
The miraculous thing is - not one single reported injury. No one died. No homes were destroyed, although there was one home that got its front porch removed, and a few houses where skylights shattered and let in waterfalls of rain and hail; but considering what could have been...
So, there you have it. The cosmos literally moving heaven and earth to keep me from DQ.
Next time, a supportive phone call will do nicely. Thanks.