Last year Richard Van Heuvelen started several field journal posts with these words. I’m borrowing them for this one.
On Monday, December 21st the local news stations started forecasting probable tornadic weather for Wednesday the 23rd. Warm tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico was flooding north and would meet a cold front. Never a good combination!
Jeff and I conferred with Brooke, and followed his instructions for securing the pen trailer Tuesday morning.
As the day went on, the forecast got worse. Brooke and Bev followed the deteriorating forecast from the beach near St Marks, where they are spending Christmas. By 2pm he decided to come back and be here for the storm. I felt horrible his vacation was being interrupted as he does not get much down time, but I must say I was glad to see him.
Wednesday morning showed no improvement and after hearing about the risk of golf ball sized hail, we decided that boxing the birds and putting them in a safe secure building was the best thing to do. The airport where the Elkridge and the Jambo are camped has a fire department that opens as a shelter, and Brian, the airport manager said we could put the birds in the pump house, which was perfect! A concrete building right next to the RVs! He also allowed us to put the trucks and the Fox in the hanger to keep them safe from hail damage.
At 4:30 pm Brooke, Jeff and his wife Mary and I started boxing birds. By 5:30 they were tucked into their safe place.
We spent most of the night under a tornado watch, had a really strong thunderstorm and high winds.
We were lucky. Seven people died last night in northern Mississippi and southwestern Tennessee. People are still missing as I write this so that figure could climb.
This morning Brooke dropped me off at the pen with two seven gallon jugs of water. I dumped the food buckets and cloroxed them, the water buckets and the foot baths, while he went to load the boxed birds with Jeff and Mary. By the time they got to the pen everything was disinfected, clean and shining, and the camera was on. Craniacs got to watch the birds be unloaded and released. I’m glad the signal held for that!
The birds did great after their dark and stormy night. I had sprinkled mealworms in every muddy spot in the pen, put out a watermelon and an eggplant. They foraged and explored with their usual curiosity. The pumpkin crop this year has been weird. They are good gourds but not meaty, so we have had a blast giving them new fruits and veggies to forage on.
The crane colts were returned to their travel enclosure to enjoy some watermelon, eggplant and mealworms.
The last few days has been team work at its finest. I’m thankful we had a happy ending and Brooke is on his way back south for his holiday, but my heart aches for those who were not so lucky. It sure puts things in perspective.
We are so grateful for Brian Crumpton the Haleyville airport manager and Dan, our stopover host, and can never thank either of them enough!