The following pictures were taken during tornado watch 104, issued by the National Weather Service on Sunday. A couple of these were taken at my apartment complex before the first big thunderstorm rolled through. The remainder were taken when I decided to go storm-spotting on the observation platform at Paynes Prairie.
At the time I decided to go spotting, there seemed to be a break in the weather. I am what might be called a cowardly spotter. A few minutes before, a tornado warning had been issued for a place called Tobacco Patch Landing in Marion County. Since the warning wasn’t in Alachua County and since I could see a hazy, weak sun trying to peek through to the east, I jumped in the car with Mr. B. Mr. B. was itching to get out of the house. Before leaving, I made a note to add Tobacco Patch Landing to my list of places to visit. I understood that my excitement would necessarily be measured; history proves that the very best place-names do not have any signage in front of which one could pose for the folks back home. This is why there are no pictures of me drinking moonshine at Brown’s Still or shaking hands with the guy for whom Mikesville is named. Tobacco Patch Landing has such a L’il Abner ring to it that as soon as the clouds break I am headed straight there, perhaps wearing Daisy Dukes. Or not.
You couldn’t have dragged me out of my apartment two years ago if there were even a remote chance of a tornado. Progress has been made since this time.
My NOAA SAME weather radio rang multiple times during the day. I have it set up for alarms in all contiguous counties and even some that are not contiguous but in whose bad weather I am interested, like Duval County.
I like talking about the weather, because it gives me a chance to use expressions like “deteriorating conditions” and “evacuate mobile homes.” I’ve taught myself to read radar and I have a special hand-held barometer that confirms why my makeup is sliding off my face.
The usual Sunday routine was going on as we drove to Paynes Prairie. Butler Plaza was crowded with the pickup trucks of rural shoppers who come to Wal-Mart on the weekend, Archer Road was the usual log-jam, and people strolled out of KFC still chewing on a leg of fried chicken.
It was just like Friday and the Friday before that, too. I have a new Florida slogan: Get on with it. When I first came here, I recall being amazed that people would shop in Lowe’s garden center during a lightning storm, but that’s Florida for you, full of pioneering spirit.
The view from my apartment, a few minutes after the tornado watch was issued.
Looking due west, towards Archer.
The view above the Tuffy Auto Service Center at Butler Plaza. Business as usual at the ever-popular Butler Plaza. Butler Plaza is a retail hub for the region, although it has lost some of its luster from competition in Chiefland, which is about 40 minutes west of Gainesville.
Paynes Prairie. The dull light was great for photography.
This rabbit was not rabbity about the marginal weather and took its time enjoying its dinner. The rabbit is the only creature other than birds that I have seen on this part of the prairie, although I understand the cottonmouth slithers around it with abandon.
Looking northward on the 441, I could see another storm moving over my part of Gainesville. We got into the car and spent the next hour, or the duration of the severe thunderstorm warning that was issued around the time this photo was taken, ambling around Kanapaha Botanical Gardens.