Ok Lord, Just how big is a Cubit?

I think we are on the verge of those 40 days and 40 nights of rain.  Things are officially soggy right now and more rain in predicted.  We have avoided those winds that makes circles (tornadoes) and hail .  It is typical of most springs here in the heartland and it takes all day to build up heat and clouds then look out world, there will be hail to pay somewhere.  I am sure the motels are full of people that are out chasing the storms across the plains from Oklahoma City to Lincoln. 

In 1983, we were home on a Friday night near the City of Topeka.  Our dog had escaped and was out wandering around so I took the car out to see if I could find him.  After making a quick search I went home.  As I drove into the driveway, it started to hail a fairly light hail but it was in a rain cloud that was seriously trying to soak the ground.   I pulled into the garage and went to the door to look outside,

By the time I got through watching a flock of birds trying to fly in circles, I realized that when the roof of a house exploded and the debris filled the sky along with those birds it was a clear air tornado.  You only see those large dark pyramids when the tornado flies over a freshly plowed field.  They are really dramatic but even the clear air one's can tear your roof off.   I went to the door to the family room to see what the TV was reporting.  Our son was sitting there and mad that the TV was off.  The power had gone off and I couldn't operate the garage door either.  He said that there was a tornado reported way down south along highway 75.  I thought that it must be directly Southwest of there and we needed to get into the downstairs room. 

I called out to Barb who was upstairs to come down and we all went in to the small bathroom downstairs.   That was all done just before the debris started to hit the house.  I told the wife that there goes the roof when the whole house shifted and moved about four feet.  The movement caused the daylight to stream into the bathroom and then I was hit by a wall and it all got dark.  I guess the house started to roll and then just tipped back into a new place.  Barb and Dave were is a pretty protected place but I was in a large pile of rubble that the house was holding down.

When the rocking and rolling stopped I could hear Barb but I was way too buried to see her.  I told her to get out of the house and I would do my best to try to get out.  I am pretty sure that it wasn't long, but it seemed like an eternity that I could lift up a part of the pile and crawl a few inches forward.  That's what the next few minutes were like.  Lift crawl, life crawl until I got to the end of the pile and could get out.  I never felt anything like the freedom of that moment.

There was a burst water pipe showering the basement and I could hear a broken gas pipe behind the house making jet sounds.  One spark and the whole place would have been toast.  I am not sure who it was that helped me shut off the water so the basement wasn't flooded but a man that worked for the Gas Service Company came down the street and crawled under the back side of the house and shut off the broken gas meter.  It was all there, but want a strange angle it was.

I am pretty sure that of the garage door support had not landed on the back of the Malibu, I would have been crushed as the house settled back into the family room.

This car was in the garage before the house lifted and shifted.
So, if you see me looking at the sky with a worried expression, this is why.  That was about 32 years ago and I still have moments where I feel claustrophobic and just have to get up and go look at the weather outside.  Hope you don't have those feelings and have a safe place to go when it storms.


  1. I came upon your blog last night while looking for who knows what. I started with your Ft Irwin narrative and have copied the paragraph below. I was with the 5/22 Arty. (175sp). I arrived 4 June 1967 and can relate to the 40 mile trip out of Barstow across the desert wondering where I was going. Arrived at 2300 hours. Was told to grab a bunk, mattress and sheets. Woke up the next morning to sand..blowing sand. Over the next week or so most of the 565 members of the of the newly activated 5/22 Arty battalion arrived, primarily from Ft Sill, newly minted cannoneers. I started OCS at Ft Sill March 1967 but decided after a short time to exit the program. That did not sit well with command so I was transferred to a cannoneer training unit. I left with a 13A MOS assigned to Ft Irwin. The commanders of 5/22 pulled us out of the cannoneer pool and assigned us to HHB Operations FDC. Our section was comprised of number of former OCS candidates. We started training in short order. In your blog you mention the problems with the powder. Between the heat of the desert and issues with the survey data we failed our first proficiency test in September (I believe) 1967. We passed the next month and began preparations to ship out. We left Long Beach on the USNS Upsher on 5 December 1967 arriving in QuiNhon on 24 December 1967. Merry Christmas. I believe the 6/84th formed shortly after the 5/22nd and arrived a month or so after we did. We heard rumors that a number of the 6/84th troops were wounded or killed shortly after arriving. We set up a battalion forward CP at FSB7 A/K/A Polei Kleng in March 1968 to June 1968 controlling the artillery west of Kontum. The CP was turned over to 6/84 in June. You may recall some of our officers from Ft Irwin who were in Vietnam. Bn Commander Lt Col Vedder B Driscoll, Maj MacDonald, Bn XO, Maj William Roth, S3, Capt Jordan, S2, Capt Sellers then Capt James HHB Battery Commanders, Capt Gil Curl with HHB then A Battery Commander. Capt Walker HHB Commander at Ft Irwin did not make the cut.

    Regarding this paragraph: The whole post was aware of the twins. They were beautiful and wore little. Word was one of our Charlie battery gunners "dated" one which was frowned upon. Also we heard they were the daughters of the Post Commander. Not sure of the validity of the information.
    To make matters worse, and I didn't think it could get much worse, the house right across the street had a pair of 15 year old twin girls living there that I never saw in much more than bikinis. I don't think I saw any other girls on post other than them and they were Jail Bait. Imagine a house full of 19 to 22 year old guys living across the street from two cute blond girls that knew they filled out their bikinis well. No, I think they also wore t-Shirts, no bras and the shortest cut off shorts you could make out of a pair of blue jeans.
    Steve S Poughkeepsie NY

  2. Dear Steve, I remember the 5/22 well. For most of August, I was a safety officer for one firing battery or another. You are absolutely right that we followed the 5/22 to Vietnam in February 1968. The 6/84th Arty was really hit hard their first night in the field way up north along the coast. I think we had about 24 mortar rounds fall in short order and had 13 KIA and many more wounded. I was sent to the 1.92nd FA over at Pleiku and saw many of the 5/22 units while with that unit. One of the batteries was in Bann Me Touit and was the host for my battery while there. I ran the rear detachment out of that batteries area. I am glad to see that you made it through Vietnam. I went into the Army as a Private and 30 years later retired as a Colonel.

  3. Dear Dennis: We heard there was not adequate or much overhead cover when you were hit with mortars. I saw an entry the Bn Commander had the engineers dig protection for the ammo rather than personnel. I note there are numerous entries on Military.com for the 6/84th. The command bunker we built at Polei Kleng was adequate. It would not have survived a direct rocket hit but should have done ok in a mortar attacked. We took 19 122mm rockets shortly after arriving. Counter rocket fire neutralized the situation. They has us bracketed. One WIA. Very lucky. I believe the 1/92nd was out there with us. A firing battery of 6/84 pulled in in June. I assume Bn FDC was with them. We turned over the CP to them and vacated to another bunker we had constructed. I do not think 6/84 was there for long. A short round or an incorrect fuse caused a US KIA to the west on LZ Mile High I believe. General Stone of the 4th ID requested a replacement unit. I think the FSB was closed down shortly thereafter due to the monsoon season setting in. Our B Battery was located at Ban Me Thout. I had the honor of transporting the construction timbers and materials from AnKhe to Ban Me Thout via Pleiku in July. It took about three days due to bad weather and rain slick oiled roads. I laid over at Artillery Hill sleeping in the comfort of the truck. It was quite a large convoy once it got under way. The truck had 2 blown rear tires and a separating rear axle set by the time we pulled into Ban Me Thout.. I salvaged some parts from a mine damaged truck at the airfield, pulled the rear tires and had them patched at a motor pool. Alpha battery was at Soui Doi east of Pleiku. Charlie Battery had been at DakTo before moving to Polei Kleng (PK) with us for 3 months. After PK we pulled back to AnKhe to stand down for several days. Out to LZ Schuller for a fire power demonstration for some REMFs. Charlie Battery along with BN FDC Operations was deployed to Phan Thiet in August via an LST out of QuiNhon. It was an overnight excursion. We hit the beach and most of the wheeled vehicles bogged down in the sand. The beginning of September 3 of use were flown via Caribou to DucLap SF Camp from Phan Thiet to set up a forward CP outside the wire of the SF Camp. DucLap was still threatened by the NVA after the overrun of August. We met others at DucLap from 5/22 and filled hundreds of sand bags once again and got to work coordinating artillery fires. Based on your note we were in some of the same places at the same time.