Eight Years Ago Today

Posted: March 20, 2008 in The Roper Files

When I show these photos to people the question they ask the most is: “Where were you?”

Me? Well it depends on what point of the storm you’re talking about. 

Before it hit I had just got home from work. Put up my throbbing feet in front of the evening news. You know the usual routine; nothing was really out of the ordinary. At one point I got up to stretch and attempt to drag my hog-tired ass into the shower and then I looked out my front door. The sky was blood red. Ooh how pretty. Close the door and peel my clothes off and head for the healing warmth of my shower.

Afterwards I get dressed and re-open my front door. There’s a certain color the sky turns when one of two things is fixing to happen. When either a hail storm or a tornado is about to happen the sky turns a horrible puke green color. The evening sky that just ten minutes earlier was so rosy and beautiful had changed into that same color as my vomit that time I drank three bottles of Boones Farm Apple Wine when I was a teenager and didn’t know any better.

My wheels were safe under a carport from hail at least but I don’t have a basement or that central room you’re supposed to have with no windows. Fuck!

There are good arguments for both sides of the global warming debate and I’m not about to open that can of worms here but storms here in Texas do seem to have become more severe in nature over the course of the last twenty years. I once was awakened from a sound sleep in the middle of January by a really fierce hail storm; I sprung up and grabbed my pistol. Thought someone was trying to break in. That particular storm trashed the roof of the house I was living in. When I told the old codger who owned the house about it he shook his head in bewilderment. “I’m eighty years old and I’ve never heard of a hailstorm in January!”

As a matter of fact I used to love a good storm. Would open the blinds wide, put on some good instrumental music. Roll a fattie and take in mother natures light show in all of its majesty.

Was a room-mate with File23 co-editor Brandon for a couple of years (1989-91). We were partying with a couple of friends late one night when a hurricane-velocity storm blew through. Blew a tree next door on top of my Chevy truck. We could hear the tree hit the truck, but the four of us couldn’t open the front door to take a look; that’s how hard the wind and the rain was blowing. Knocked out the electricity for a week. We cooked on a grill in the back yard and read by candlelight like Abe Lincoln.

In between 1991 and 1995 I would witness hail storms so fierce I would shout at the ceiling: “Very funny God! You can stop any time now!” as I would wonder to myself which window was going to break first. On May 5th 1995 I would experience the most helpless feeling I ever had in my life watching through a window as that same (cursed it seems) Chevy truck got pounded into scrap metal by grapefruit-sized hailstones.

So fast forward back to March 20 2000. Looking out the front door the sky has turned the wrong color. Oh shit. Turn on the local news. “If you live in this area…” the local newscaster points right to where I live. “We advise you to take shelter immediately!” Crap!

Go outside and scoop up the cat. She knows somethings up and doesn’t fight me. Back on tv the newscasters are mechanically rattling off the usual shit-hits-the-fan safety mantras: Take shelter. Close the doors and windows (duh!) Stay away from the windows.

Yeah, but how can the hell can you see what’s going on THAT way? I open the front door and look out. Not good. It’s gotten dark about an hour and a half early. All kinds of shit is spraying sideways: dirt, pebbles, paper, trash off the street. So much for that; go back in.

On tv the lights go out in the studio and the newscasters are left sitting comicly in the dark. Then you can hear a door open and someone running through the dark studio yelling: “There’s a funnel cloud right outside!” Excuse us ladies and gentlemen; we have to go hide under our desks. Then the tv went along with the lights. Oh oh.

Grab the cat and head for the bathroom. Sit with my knees up half-curled-up in a ball holding her as she shakes; she knows something’s up. The winds howls outside the window. And then minutes later…quiet.

Powers still out, so I go outside. The sun re-appears. No windows out; cool. Score one for my side. Drop the cat who runs off for destinations unknown.

The television comes on later telling of massive damage downtown. Too dark to see anything; I’ll check it out tomorrow.

Went out on foot with my Canon and shot about a half dozen rolls of film over the course of the next three days; the picture here are just a select few.

The first one I think gives a good indication of the winds velocity. This is one of those square poles with the holes drilled up and down the length of it so they can bolt on those “no parking this side of street” signs or whatever. Look closely at the base of the pole where it twisted before the sign took off into the cosmos. Imagine sticking a crowbar through it and trying to twist it like this.


Or this former billboard bent over; they left this up until recently.


Downtown Fort Worth; looks like Godzilla just came through.


All of this has been re-built; the developers swept in like so many buzzards. It’s all condos I can’t afford to lease now and full of tenants who had better pray lightning doesn’t strike twice.


It’s one thing to see this on tv and another up close:


The Cash America building: what a scorpion nest this turned out to be. The FBI and ATF had offices here. 


Love this time of year. Keep watching the skies. Like I’ve got nothing else to do…



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