There’s a First Time For Everything: Tornado Warning. Check.

There’s a First Time For Everything: Tornado Warning. Check.

Since I moved to North Dakota, my list of “firsts” has increased exponentially. I mean it only makes since that North Dakota and California don’t share very many similarities, I would be experiencing all sorts of new things. But last night took the cake on my lists of firsts. Last night we had a tornado warning. 

Some of y’all who live in tornado country are like “PSH, no big deal… we live through that many times in a year.” And you may be right, but you’ve got to understand. I grew up in California. There are no tornados in California. My fear of tornadoes is much like a Midwesterner’s fear of earthquakes. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to look for. And I wasn’t entirely sure what was going to happen. After seeing the devastation a tornado can cause in several towns in NE and OK, I kept playing this image of Ashley flattened to rubble in my mind. 

Photo Jun 19, 10 01 35 AM

My husband was out checking fields and driving around north of town when the sirens in town went off. My phone lit up with warnings to seek shelter. So I grabbed a blanket, my phone, and of course some wine and headed down to the basement. Thankfully I have some amazing friends in town who made sure I was okay and safe via text and phone calls. I got ahold of my husband to know that he was north of it all and sought shelter in a farm yard. Although I wished he was home with me, I was at least glad he had cell service enough for him to ensure I had seeked shelter and to let him know that I loved him. 

I watched the wind whip our tree outside from the basement window, rain came down in sheets, and lightning cracked. But thankfully a tornado never formed. There were several smaller funnel clouds that touched down to the south of town and to the east which wrecked some havoc but thankfully injured nobody. I have heard reports that some power lines came down, a barn roof was torn off, some calf shelters were lost, and many damaged trees.


The National Weather Service is conducting an investigation today to confirm damages and reports of wind speeds. At Maverick Ag, we had a door bust open from the wind from the west and lots of water came pouring in from the rain. We also had some things seriously blown around, like an 80 lb. metal lid to our seed treater which blew 50 ft. away. But there were no damages. We were lucky. 

A small community (about our size) to the south of us about 170 miles, Wessington Springs, South Dakota, did not fare as lucky. A tornado came right through the heart of their town. Completely destroying three businesses and damaging approximately 43 homes with 11 homes damaged to uninhabitable. Luckily a timely warning allowed the entire city to take shelter and there were no deaths or critical injuries. Today the town seeks to organize and pick up the pieces. 

Processed with VSCOcam with m4 preset

Once the storm had passed, my husband was finally able to drive into town. And our warning was lifted. I was so glad to have him home safe and sound. We spent the remainder of the evening driving around, assessing water levels and damages. The highway just outside of town about 3 miles to the west was shut down as water rushed over the road. In town we received about 1.5 – 1.8 of rain and at the farm 20 miles away, they received 1.8 inches with barely any wind. In between, however, did not fare as well. Some farmers and friends reported numbers anywhere from 4-5 inches with water rushing through their yards and fields looking like a lake. The photo below is courtesy Marisa Meidinger.


As the storm continued to the east of us, the hubby and I sat and watched the lightning crack. I caught some photos of the flashes. And we prayed that no more tornadoes would be forming. Luckily, it was fairly calm for the rest of the evening so we were able to go to bed and do the rest of the assessments today. 

Now that I have experienced a scare of a tornado, I am hoping my next experience won’t be nearly as bad. I am sure I will still be terrified. But at least I have lived through it once. Yes, we received a lot of water and that is detrimental to many farmers in the area as it will likely drown out crops. But I am just so thankful that we all remained safe, our homes and city intact, and that we aren’t spending today picking up the pieces like the small community in South Dakota is. Please keep them and many other towns in your prayers as so many right now are suffering through the devastation that is Mother Nature. She is cruel, she is brutal, but sometimes you’ve just to to marvel at her beauty.

There’s a first time for everything… And for this California born and raised girl, I am putting a big red check by tornado warning. 

Summer Storm-1-2


Summer Storm-1

Summer Storm-2

Summer Storm-3

Summer Storm-4



  1. June 19, 2014 / 10:43 am

    Beautiful photos, and terrorizing! I am glad all are safe.

    • June 19, 2014 / 1:26 pm

      Thank you! I love storms and I love to watch storms roll in BUT tornadoes scare me!!

      • June 19, 2014 / 2:19 pm

        I like to watch lightening – from inside the apartment! I have never been able to capture it. And yes, tornadoes scare me too.

  2. June 19, 2014 / 10:47 am

    I am so glad you are safe, we get the odd tornado through our area, the closest one was a few years back about 15 minutes away and it hit a barn and luckily not their home. Amazing pictures, it’s a goal of mine to catch a lightning strike! What settings do you use?
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    • June 19, 2014 / 1:28 pm

      Thank you! This was my first time ever capturing lightning!! It’s tough and I deleted a lot of just black photos! Basically I tried to use the FASTEST shutter speed I could all while still being at a good exposure so that I would get some silhouettes and whatnot. I actually darkened these photos a little bit because you could see the grass, etc. I also used a handheld remote which also helped to fire my camera without me having to press the button. I know some people set their cameras on a burst mode. You could try that too. It was SUPER hard to time it! But luckily, I got lucky and caught a few!

  3. June 19, 2014 / 11:32 pm

    Welcome to the uncertainty of Midwest weather! Seems like the northern country is getting way more tornadoes than I ever remember. And the usual spring weather that brings bad storms and tornadoes to Eastern NE has diminished. Weird weather!! Gorgeous pictures, though. πŸ™‚

  4. June 20, 2014 / 7:06 am

    A couple years ago, when I experienced living by myself for the first time, we had a band of tornadoes come through where I lived and it was terrifying! I had NEVER been in a tornado nor did I know that they could happen in NC. The entire time that I’ve lived here, we’ve never had any. Luckily, none of the ones that touched down were where my house was but they were close by and of course the destruction was horrible. I remember seeing all the rubble and just crying because I felt so awful for all the people who were affected by it. A barn close to me lost all of their horses when the barn itself collapsed. My fiance is a fireman so he of course was out running calls when the tornadoes happened and that was probably the hardest part of it. Knowing that he was out when everything was happening made my anxiety go through the roof. Anyway, I’m glad your safe and didn’t have to deal with anything worse! Your pictures were amazing!
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  5. June 20, 2014 / 8:57 am

    It’s rare that a warning actually produces a tornado anywhere nearby, so hopefully this means you’re good for awhile! I’m wishing you dozens and dozens of false alarms. Poor Wessington Springs…I’m just so glad everyone listened to the warnings there or it could have been so much worse.
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  6. Kathy
    June 20, 2014 / 2:49 pm

    I love the wine was on your list of things to grab on way to basement…phone, wine,blanket. All the necessities πŸ™‚

  7. Tiffany Anderson
    July 5, 2014 / 2:52 pm

    Hi, Jenny.
    One of my ND friends posted your Lazy Cheese Buttons post and I couldn’t help but notice your website name PrairieCalifornian, since that’s how I feel most days, I had to check it out. πŸ™‚ I have been enjoying your posts, as a former North Dakota girl, now a California girl, I find many commonalities or kinships with you.

    I grew up in the Southwest corner of ND (New England & Bowman to be exact) and my husband grew up in the Northwest corner of ND (Powers Lake, Stanley, Minot area) and we met and started our lil family in Fargo. Now we call the Peninsula or Silicon Valley our home, but ND will always be our HOME. We’re SO delighted you love it, too! πŸ˜‰

    I have to tell you that this post about your 1st Tornado Warning had me remembering our 1st Earthquake! It was terrifying and thrilling at the same time. The craziest thing for us was how our neighbors (born & raised CA) sat on their stoop and smoked while we huddled under our largest header beam doorway as far from windows as possible (to the book Earthquake safety nerds). They had a great laugh at our expense. πŸ™‚ I think that the uncertainty of ND’s weather (I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “If you don’t like the weather, give it 5 minutes and it change for ya.” plenty by now to know what I’m referencing.) raised us to be prepared and to take Mother Nature seriously. We still notice the rapid temperature change in the evening when the sun goes down, instinct tells us to look and watch for the storm clouds to roll in, tho that rarely, if ever happens here, we still find ourselves looking.

    This will be our 1st year that we haven’t made it back to ND for a visit & maybe I’m a bit nostalgic or homesick, but this post had me captivated. I’m sure you remember your 1st Lightning Storm too, since they are on the rare-side here in CA. You did a great job of capture the lightning strikes, it’s funny what you miss…Lightning, the smell before & after a good rain, the sway of grain fields, the yellow vastness of sunflower fields or the periwinkle of flax fields in the summer, the thunderheads rolling in, the palette of a ND sunset, the frost on the trees in the morning light…I could go on & on, the prairie leaves an imprint on your heart.

    Thanks for bringing back the smells, tastes, sounds, sights and feelings of the prairie for this California girl. πŸ˜‰

    • July 10, 2014 / 1:19 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words! I love hearing about how through my posts I am able to connect with people who have roots in North & South Dakota! πŸ™‚ I guess we just traded places huh?

  8. July 15, 2014 / 11:21 am

    Glad that you were safe and that the folks in neighboring towns were ok too. And, I smiled at the thought of you sipping on wine as you were hunkered down. Nice way to ease the nerves a little. You took some great photos. I appreciate the John Deere signs in the last one! πŸ™‚
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