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Running from a twister with Toto

Monday, August 13, 2012
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Who was it who said it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters?

I was thinking about that on Sunday as we drove back from a weekend in Connecticut. We celebrated two birthdays and two wedding anniversaries, and my wife and her sister had a happy reunion with some old friends. It was a pleasurable visit, though not what you would call exciting.

The journey, however, now that was exciting.

We’ve driven from Schenectady to Connecticut many times. We tend to favor a route that takes us down the Taconic State Parkway, which stretches a little more than 100 miles in a generally north-south direction and is located halfway between the Hudson River and the Massachusetts and Connecticut state lines. It’s a gentler and more scenic byway than the Thruway, which we take part way, or other more modern expressways where breakneck speed and rapid lane changes are commonplace.

The parkway — “the TSP” — dates back to the early 1960s. (Wife Beverly, who is a Connecticut native, has been driving the TSP since the days when she was an undergraduate at Russell Sage).

It has only two southbound lanes separated from two northbound lanes by forested medians, and the speed limit is 55 mph, enforced by state police who on Sunday seemed to be present every 10 miles or so.

It was on Saturday, however, that our routine journey took an interesting turn.

We hadn’t yet reached the parkway and were driving along Route 82 in the town of Taghkanic in Columbia County when we heard an unusual alarm that at first we thought was coming from our GPS. (The radio was off).

It was that annoying sound you hear on the radio and TV when they’re about to air an Emergency Broadcast System test. (You know the one where the announcer says: “This is a test. … If this had been an actual emergency, the attention signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news or instructions.”)

Turned out it was not our GPS, but a cellphone we were hearing. And it was not a test.

A severe weather alert from the National Weather Service appeared on the screen of Beverly’s phone. It warned us that we were in an area where a tornado was likely to touch down at any moment and that we should seek shelter immediately.

The sky was black and rain was pounding the highway. There was nothing on either side of the road that looked like shelter to me.

As we drove on and continued looking, I had this sudden thought about Maggie.

Did I mention Maggie was with us? Maggie, our Cairn Terrier — you know, like Toto, the little dog who was whisked away with Dorothy to Oz … BY A TORNADO?

My science teacher wife was not particularly alarmed. She loves storms and unusual “weather events.”

“Isn’t this exciting?” she said as I continued to scan for a root cellar or a bomb shelter.

Exciting? Oh my, yes, nothing like the prospect of an imminent, violent death to put a smile on my lips.

We passed a few produce stands, but the car seemed to afford better protection than they would. The sky ahead was getting brighter so we pressed on and soon reached the parkway. Not long after that, the sun came out, and the rest of the trip was unremarkable.

Soon after we landed in Trumbull, my brother-in-law greeted us affably. “How was your trip? Did you run into any rain?”

“Yes,” we said. “Lots of it. And there was this tornado …”

Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the newspaper. Reach him at P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, N.Y. 12301, or by email to dean@dailygazette.com.

 
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