From The Mountain
Mark J. Tidwell
The talk these days has focused a lot on the storms that passed through the area on March 2. Of course, different areas received varying doses of weather. In Highcliff, I can tell you that there were three different hail events, a lot of rain, but thank goodness not a lot of wind. Neighbors received some siding damage. Several vehicles, including ours, were pock marked up by the huge hail. My daughter’s car got its windshield cracked. But in the overall scheme of the day’s events, where others lost homes and lives, that’s very little to worry about.
In the movie “Forrest Gump,” starring Tom Hanks, GI Gump says of his Vietnam days, “We’ve been through every kinda’ rain there is, stingin’ rain, big ol’ fat rain, rain that blew in sideways, rain that came straight up from underneath.” I’d reckon folks here about saw similar situations with hail balls. Personally, I saw it coming straight down. I saw it flying by sideways. I saw it bouncing around like thousands of white balls on the lawn. And sure enough, just like Gump observed, it even seemed to come straight up from underneath.
Thanks to the cyber world, I was able to view hailstones from a wide swath around the area. Folks posted photos of hail with all manners of objects to give an indication as to size. Descriptions made for some interesting, if not hair-raising, reading. Things most often mentioned seemed to be: pea sized, marble sized, golf ball sized, tennis ball sized, and mercy even baseball sized.
The various forms the hail took were interesting as well. The smaller hail mostly appeared to be as white as the purest snow. Some hail was as smooth as a baseball’s hide. Other hailstones were wickedly jagged, with long spikes like a medieval mace. Some was clear as well water. The hail that pelted Highcliff so violently was a combination of features. The centers were snow white, about large marble size, surrounded by crystal clear layers up to what I’d call tennis ball size.
After things calmed down, I recalled the story my late father, James Tidwell, Jr., used to tell about a hailstorm that hit Highcliff when he was but five years old. That was on March 14, 1933. Dad often told of how his mother cradled him and his sisters in her arms as the hail beat down and the wind raged. His most vivid recollection was of looking at a then common item, the wash pan. Some of their roof had been peeled up and hail had penetrated into the house, overfilling the big wash pan with huge hailstones and spilling out over its sides onto the floor.
I looked that storm up and found it listed as the March 1933 Nashville Tornado Outbreak in which 61 people lost their lives. That same storm passed over Highcliff that day in ’33 into Pruden, Ky., where at least 12 were killed and 162 were injured in what is deemed in retrospect as and F4 tornado. It had been a mild winter which set up conditions almost identical to what we experienced the other day. I’ve heard Mrs. Dorothy Potter, previous Jellico library director, speak of surviving the terrible tornado in Pruden that day, often saying how boards came through their house like bullets, in one side and out the other. I hope it is a very long time indeed before folks experience such conditions again!