Tornado On The Runway

December 13, 2007

in Weather Stories

As a freshman in college a few years ago, I became extremely homesick within the first two days. I wanted to go home, but my mom promised me that if I stayed a while to give it a chance, she would visit me the following month. We booked flights for her that night. So mid-September comes around, and I am anxiously awaiting my mother’s arrival. The flight from D.C. to Ohio takes about an hour, with another hour’s drive afterwards. Just before my mom’s flight was to board, I called and made sure everything was set. She mentioned thunderstorms in the area, which were caused by Hurricane Ivan. But living within sight of Dulles’ runways, we frequently see planes landing in the worst conditions imaginable, so I wasn’t worried, even though my mother’s flight was on a small commuter jet.

Several minutes later my sister called to ask if our mom’s flight had taken off, and when I said I wasn’t sure, she said the storms at home and around the airport were deteriorating quickly. I called my mom’s cell. While we were talking (she was in line on the runway and hadn’t been told to turn it off yet), I heard the chimes over the phone indicating that the pilot wanted to say something. Suddenly my mom said, “I have to go. I love you.” The line went dead.

A few hours later she landed in Ohio, and I was never happier to hear her voice (except perhaps on 9/11) than I was right then. She told me that when we were talking, the pilot had informed them that if they looked out the window, they could see a tornado on the runway. The control tower was evacuated, and they had no option but to zigzag and try to escape the tornado’s path. I was glad she hadn’t told me that until the flight had landed safely!

It wasn’t until later that night that I learned how lucky she was. Before coming into the airport, the tornado had gone down the street I live on, taking a few houses with it. Just two houses down, there was an empty lot with some debris where a house once stood. My street was on the front page of the Washington Post the following day. I will NEVER get on a plane when there’s a hurricane again. Looking back, it sounds obvious, but I trusted the people in charge. Next time, maybe not so much.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon April 8, 2009 at 9:46 pm

You're not mature enough to go away to college. Go home and find a local community college.

Grow up, your childishness is what put your mother in danger, not any decision by the airline.


Atarii October 27, 2013 at 4:04 am

Seldom in life have I observed such cartoonish dramatics.

"The tornado is eating her! . . . then it's going to eat me! . . . . . OOOOH MYYY GOOOOOOOOOOOOO"


Joe Mama April 9, 2009 at 4:22 am

Rowr! Put those claws away, Sharon! Ever think that maybe his mother wanted to visit anyway? She is an adult & can make her own decisions.


Beck April 28, 2009 at 9:29 am

I remember that hurricane and tornado. I was in the mid-field terminal at Dulles Airport when the tornado touched down and we could see it throwing things in the air from where we were. I'd never seen a tornado before (not live, anyway) and I thought it was the coolest thing EVER! I got on the phone with my cousin, who I was going to visit, and left her a lengthy, rambling voice mail about the tornado at the airport. (Imagine "There's a tornado at the airport!" said several times in awe.) Her dad saved the message and still teases me about it.


one February 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm

hahaha so homesick you wanted to go home after a few days? which college for the mentally disabled (notice the PC term) were you going to??


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