Mark and I originally planned to stay another day, but with Mother’s Day five days away we decide to leave to make sure we make it back in time. We make a plan to leave early in the morning before the weather in the Bahamas and Florida really gets a chance to get going.
Our plan works beautifully – we fly direct to Fort Lauderdale where we return the rental life raft and go through US Customs. We declare the cigars and rum but almost get fined $300 for not declaring some packaged hummus in a cooler which I mention to him a bit later.
But back to our plan. By the time we were up and out of Florida, the weather radar was totally lit up behind us. Awesome, we missed it! However it was also lit up in front of us, all the way from Mexico to Illinois. We develop another plan. Since the line of weather was slowly moving east, we decide to head straight for the line of storms and stop just short of them. Then just hunker down while the weather passes over us in the night, and then we’ll be good to go in the morning when the weather, now east of us, picks up strength again.
We pick the city of Clinton, Oklahoma but we watch it get engulfed by orange and red on the radar. We divert to a small town in Oklahoma and land under dark clouds.
The plan, so far, is working. We get internet service and turn on the weather channel and it reports, “Deadly Storm Expected to Rage On Through the Night”. What?
Did we really just park Mark’s plane in the path of hail and tornados?
What kind of messed up plan is that?
A guy shows up at the airport office and the conversation goes like this. Really.
Mark: Are you the airport manager?
Guy: Yes. Hell of a night to be flying around.
Me. Well, we landed.
Guy: Hell of a night to be flying around.
Mark: Yeah, so I’m worried about my plane. Do you think it is safe our there?
Silence, and there are constant flashes in the sky from lightning, which adds much drama.
Mark: So that hangar over there. Is there any room in it?
Guy. No, it’s leased out.
Silence. I feel sick. Way too much drama.
Mark: (even though he knows the answer isn’t good): Um, are there other hangars around?
Guy. Well, yes, over on the other side are some hangars.
Mark: Do you think I could use one?
Guy: Well, yes, one is empty. I guess you might as well use it. It’s unlocked.
Mark: Oh my gosh, thank you, etc.
The fellow describes how to get there and tells us we should get the plane in right away, then he leaves. Mark and I continue to eat and he returns a few minutes later.
Guy: I told you guys to get your plane in there right away. I mean now. You have 15 minutes. There is a tornado warning. And by the way, this airport office is cinderblock which is way better than my trailer. (He apparently doesn’t realize that even idiots from California know that trailers don’t fare well in Oklahoma tornados). If it gets bad the misses and my dog will be showing up. And my dog is mean.
Then he leaves again and we leave right after him to get the plane under cover, more from the hail as nothing will protect it from a tornado. Then we finish eating, go to bed in the airport office and wait.
It turns out we have more than 15 minutes, but at 1:00 am my iPhone buzzes with an emergency tornado warning to seek shelter. I guess we are in one? The guy had mentioned there is an official bunker somewhere but something was wrong with it and he wouldn’t use it. There is constant flashing from all sides and now the booming is loud and near.
Wow, heck of a plan.
The next (and last) post of the Cuba/Bahamas adventure: Home. Oklahoma to California.