Father's Day started out as a beautiful, sunny and warm day, and after church we met our daughters and their families in a park in Billings for a picnic. It felt so good to be outside, as we have had quite a lot of rain and cool days. We ate our picnic fare, watched the kids play, and just enjoyed sitting in the shade of the cottonwood trees.
Lauren with our granddaughter, Maya
Our son-in-law John with his 2 sons, Eli and Jack, in a loving pose!
Our son-in-law Mark with Eli and daughter Maya
At about 1:30, we all went to our own homes; the toddlers to take naps and the rest of us to enjoy our own lazy respites. John and Mark went to play golf together. It was just a perfect Sunday.
About 4:00, the sky started to get very dark as the clouds rolled in, and we were expecting a good rain. About 4:30, we heard the siren; not our local fire siren, but the emergency siren that we usually only hear during tests periodically throughout the year. But this was no test. We looked at each other and said something like, "Why is that going off?" We turned the tv to the local weather channel, and they muttered something about a storm. Most of the tv stations went off the air. Not a good sign!
We have lived in Montana for 30 years, and one thing we always have liked is that tornadoes are very rare in Montana. In fact, it has been over 50 years since a tornado hit the Billings area. There have been a few tornadoes that hit some of the more rural areas several miles from this area, but generally, tornadoes are very rare. But that was about to change!
Now, you would think we would've gone to the basement, but remember, tornadoes are rare, so we continued to stay on the main floor and try to find out more information. Besides, our basement is old and full of stuff, and I didn't want my mom to have to tackle the old steps unless absolutely necessary.
A tv station came back on the air that had the information we needed: Billings, about 15 miles from us, had been hit by a tornado, and not only that, the area hit was only a mile or 2 from where Sara and Mark live! I called Sara, and she said that yes, they had had a torrent of rain, wind and hail, but they were fine. Mark was driving home at the time and saw the funnel, but it was away from their apartment.
Here is a picture of the funnel. I'm not sure if this was before or after it hit Billings.
The worse damage was in the Billings Heights area, where the tornado hit Metra Park, a large sports arena where Women of Faith has come as well as Beth Moore. When filled, it seats 12,000 people. The day before, the Billings Outlaws had played a home football game in front of over 2,000 people. This is the inside of the Metra, the roof completely gone and the inside littered with debris and heavy damage.
The funnel swirled about the Metra for about 15 minutes, and it also destoyed or heavily damaged several businesses. Over 2 inches of rain fell in less than 1 hour, not normal for this area. Winds ranged from 111 t0 135 mph.By the grace and power of God, no one was killed and only a few were injured by hail. In our town, we only had a little rain and not a lot of wind.
My husband had to drive by the Metra today as part of his work day, and he described it to me on the phone. He said debris was everywhere and the Metra was as bad as the news reported. The weather report is for more storms tonight, and believe me, if we hear the emergency siren, we are headed to the basement!
Throughout all of this, I didn't feel any fear,but afterI found out how close loved ones had been to the tornado, I realized how quickly things can change in our lives. Today, I am more aware of what is happening in the sky, but I do know and trust that our heavenly Father is watching over us, and that nothing comes as a surprise to Him. All types of storms come into our lives, and He is ever faithful to give us His peace. Some of you have been through or are going through a storm right now. Some of your storms have been raging for a long time, and there seems to be no end. My words cannot calm the storms of your lives, but God's can. He has the power to be with you in the midst of any storm you go through, no matter how severe and how long. I know that when our faith wavers, He is with us, and I am reminded of His power when he says,
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid."
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." —Ephesians 2:8,9 (NIV) (To find eternal peace, click the picture.)