About Steven A. Collins

The cornerstone of our Republic is an enlightened populous and the keystone of that enlightenment is a free press. The free press will only survive if the general public contributes. These blogs are one method of supporting our free press. I was once a soldier, serving to defend the Constitution of the United States. Photography and writing are now two of the ways I use to support our freedom of speech and defend the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. I am a happily married man and currently a resident of Valley City, ND. Here is a random collection of my photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/CollinsStevenA/RandomPhotosBySteve#

That is not a train that I hear.

I woke last night to the sound of thunder and unlike Bob Seger I didn’t wonder how far away the lighting was striking. There was no flash, count, boom, it was a simultaneous flash-boom, very loud and quite startling, even for a guy addicted to fireworks. Being a typical middle aged man the first thing I do when waking in the middle of the night is head straight for the bathroom, storm on not.
In a startled-sleepy state I was somewhat amused by the unusual water fluctuations in the toilet bowl. You know how it looks on a windy day but at 3:30 am this morning it was quite dramatic. The sloshing my toilet bowl was amusing until I felt the house vibrating. It wasn’t just the ominous rattle of too close thunder. At first the sensation was confusing and in my sleep-startle mode I wondered, “Is this what an earthquake feels like”. Then it hit me like a thunder clap, literally, I was instantly awake and ushering my wife to the basement. I was trying to act cool while frantically searching for shoes for both of us thinking that if a tornado hits the house I don’t want us crawling out of the rubble in our bare feet. I could deal with the pajamas in the rain but not bare feet on wet debris.
As we went down stairs we noticed that it began to hail, the stones hitting the north and west sides of the house. Then we heard a train. Keep in mind we live right next to the Hi-Line Bridge in Valley City and we hear dozens of trains pass every day. We can even tell the difference between a passing freight train and a passing coal train. We looked at each other perplexed at what was wrong with the sound of the train. It was a howling roar with a hint of a high pitched wind that didn’t sound like any train we had ever heard. It was a frightening sound.
The sloshing toilet, the shaking house and now the roar that could be heard from inside the furnace room, hiding in our “safe place” with our whining dog Tucker, we wondered, could it actually be a tornado? As the power flickered on an off, making the lights flash randomly, I didn’t make the smartest move. I ran upstairs to grab a couple of flash lights and a smart phone. I guess that reliance on a smart phone wasn’t too smart. Next time I will just sit still and let myself feel unconnected.
We first used the phone to visit the National Weather Service website. Sure enough they issued a tornado warning for our area and had radar reports of a tornado in the area of our house, just north of town. I don’t know if those reports have been confirmed at the time I write this. We next posted to my facebook page, identifying our location in the house in case rescuers needed to find us.
After 40 minutes of sitting in the furnace room the storm broke. We could see lightening all around to the north and east from our living room window. We could see the headlight of a train parked a mile east of the Hi-Line Bridge. That just served to confirm that whatever we heard, whatever was making the house shake like it was in an earthquake wasn’t a train. We have observed that trains don’t cross the bridge in high wind conditions or storms. It probably has something to do with the big iron lighten rod spanning the valley and anchored in a river.
I will drive around town now and take some pictures, if there is anything more interesting than some downed trees I will post them here. As I look out the living room window now I see on apple tree was snapped off about a foot from the bas and my plum tree is shredded. Too bad, that apple tree produces every year and the plum tree was laden with fruit after three years of not producing.
Before I look around town I will pray for those of you that received damage to your house or on your property. I sincerely hope no one was injured.

First Tornados?

Yesterday afternoon just after 5:00pm I was driving west on I-94 between Oriska and Valley City as a frontal system was passing through. There wasn’t a lot of rain in the leading edge of the storm and we could see a significant wall cloud with some serious wind-shear. Behind the wall cloud was a deluge of rain. The sight prominent wind shear was enough to give me goose bumps and cause anxiety. It was a normal reaction considering the intensity of the storm ahead and the fact that I was transporting my wife and pregnant daughter. We were between exits and had no way to get off the interstate before passing under the squall line. My wife tuned in the local radio station, KOVC and we listened to Ryan Cunningham read a weather alert from the National Weather Service (NWS). He continued to report sightings of three funnel sightings ten mile due north of our position. Later that hour he reported to the Barnes County dispatch seeing a tornado touch down once then withdraw into the clouds just east of Baldhill Dam at Getcell township.

Learn More About Extreme Weather

I am not a weather expert but as a former Army Aviator I have had a little bit of experience in studying weather. If you would like to learn more about “Extreme Weather” then I would suggest you take a free “SkyWarn” Storm Spotter class offered by the Grand Forks National Weather Service. There are only four scheduled class remaining this season. I will be taking one at the Barnes County Highway Department building in Valley City on June 2nd at 6:00 pm. There is no registration and no fee, just show up.

Here is a schedule, location and FAQ sheet for the SkyWarn training: