Rick Bazauri was down right giddy while describing how the Oakland Park tornado on Monday morning slammed right into his car as he was driving freeway speed southbound on I-95.
“It was exciting!" Bazauri said. "All my life I’ve been waiting for this.”
Why? Because Bazauri is a storm chaser. But, this time, this storm chased him.
“It was as dark as night,” he said as his burgundy van traveling 55 miles an hour came to a stop – and he hadn’t even hit the brakes. He said the 80-mile per hour rotating tornadic winds brought his car to a halt, and then slid it sideways.
“And then, in 20 seconds, it was all over. And we just kept driving on our way,” he laughed.
Bazauri may have the most incredible story of the brief but destructive tornado, in part, because he’s a trained spotter for the national weather services, now called NOAA Weather. And he was perhaps the first person to call them to report the tornado sighting – which he sighted on his front bumper.
Jeremiah Smith, on the other hand, had just rented a house on NW 38th Street just east of where Bazauri drove into the tornado. Smith’s young children were in their bedroom at 8:30 a.m. when, as he describes it, “Whooom! Whooom! And it was over. 30 seconds.” Had it gone on for a minute, he said, his kids would have had a heart attack. It was that scary.
Moments later, rain poured through his ceiling and down the interior of his walls. The tornado had sucked the asphalt shingles right off his roof and let in a torrent of water.
Broward County inspectors condemned his home for the time being.
“We are offering free roof inspections,” said Dave Haase of J.F. Smith contractors, an established, licensed roof specialist right around the corner. Haase went door to door offering advice and looking for new contracts. “The first thing you do is get a tarp over it to prevent further damage,” he said.
Picking up a piece of asphalt shingle laying on someone’s lawn amid the debris and estimated its age and origin. Then he picked up a ripped and tarred piece of roofing paper and said that the wind had been so strong, “it tore off all the way down to the third layer.”
There were the stories along the tornado’s short, two-mile path: NW 38th Street from I-95 to Andrews Avenue.
By late in the day, the air was filled with sounds of resurrection: chain saws, raking, hammering, fallen fencing rattling in the remnant winds. The setting sun shown orange through a tattered American flag.
When daylight comes again, the clean up will continue. But the one common theme among the neighbors who found reason to come outside and talk to each other: trees may be down, awnings may be torn. But no one was hurt.