Day 4: Brookings, SD (by way of Tracy, MN)

Trip Start Jul 21, 2010
Trip End Jul 29, 2010

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Where I stayed
Tracy Medical Center

Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Saturday, July 24, 2010

So there we are pulling out the Walnut Grove Pageant, knowing that there is an impending weather storm but with no other choice really than to continue on to Brookings, SD where we have a hotel reservation for the night.  After about 5 minutes on US-14, the rain starts to fall.  Rain might actually be an understatement, more like walls of water being blown across the road at 60+ mph.  I'm pretty sure there was hail, and there was certainly some debris from trees coming down too.  Our visibility practically disappeared and we slowed to a crawl. Thankfully, Mom is a very capable driver and so we stayed on the road.  When we saw lights for the Tracy Country Club, we decided to pull off the road to see what happened next.

We watched as about 10 cars moved slowly past us on US-14 heading in the direction we wanted to go so, after a bit, we decided to follow them.  We checked the map to be sure there were no bodies of water that we had to cross between us and the next town and discovered that the next town we would come to would be Tracy.  Looking on Wikipedia (now safely in my bed at the Hampton Inn in Brookings), I learn that in 1968 Tracy was hit by an F5 tornado which killed 9 people and injured 150, but thankfully we didn't know that at the time.  We proceeded very slowly ahead toward Tracy (population 2,268) and followed signs to the Tracy Medical Center, figuring that was as safe a place as any to wait out the storm.  We sat in the car in the hospital parking lot for a few minutes and then decided we would actually feel even safer if we were inside the hospital, so we made a mad dash for the door.

I should mention that we were both pretty shaky from the wind and general fear and anxiety, so I can't really imagine what the hospital staff thought of us.  We assured them that we were fine, just "scared Yankees" in unfamiliar territory, looking for a safe-harbor from the storm.  As it turned out, another family came into the hospital about 10 minutes after us doing the exact same thing (they had also come in to town for the pageant; unfortunately they had been planning to camp nearby and that no longer seemed like a possibility).  The nurses on duty said this happened frequently and we didn't need to worry.  About 20 minutes later, these nice ladies checked the Doppler Weather map and reported that the worst had past and we should be in the clear heading east.

At that point, it would have been very tempting to find a closer hotel along the road to pull over at for the night; however, we were in the middle of rural Minnesota and each town we passed seemed to have half the population of the previous town, plus we already had a reservation in SD where we needed to be on Saturday.  So we drove through little town after little town with our eyes glued straight ahead, mostly to keep a look out for deer (which we did see, once up on a hill, and once crossing the road in front of us), but also to avoid looking out either side of the car where the lightening was still crackling across the sky at frighteningly close intervals.  We hardly heard any thunder though, so that was comforting, and we saw no more rain, which was incredible. 

Eventually, at 12:36am, we entered SD, and since no one else was around us on the road we were able to pull over and get our first picture of an actual "Welcome to ____ state" sign.  Twenty-three miles later we ran straight into Brookings and were very grateful to see that, amazingly, Mom had made our reservation at the very first hotel we came to on the outskirts of town.  Mom was so excited to be inside and able to take a shower, wash off all the bug spray and fear sweat, that she celebrated with some wine from a Styrofoam cup and genuine Wisconsin cheese curds for dessert.  Cheers!

More pictures of Day 4 at

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Khadija on

Wow, you guys got caught in a lot of rain. Sultan was traveling that way this week and had issues with his flight due to the weather.

I love reading about your trip! Great writing Sarah!

Aunt Janet on

Wow, that sounds really scary. Glad you are safe and sound now. Hope the rest of your trip is dryer.

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