“Leaden” is the perfect word to describe the sky as I write this morning. Our county and the surrounding counties are under a tornado watch (conditions suitable for the formation of a tornado). The counties north of us, around Memphis (our next stop), are under a tornado warning (a tornado has been sighted on the ground or on radar).
Until we began fulltiming, we did not know the definitions of “watch” and “warning”, particularly in relationship to “tornado”. Now we feel like old hands.
We had planned to move from Trace State Park to Oxford, MS, for two nights, then on to Memphis, TN, arriving there on Sunday. Beginning on Thursday, the forecast deteriorated… severe weather on the way for the entire area. We felt confident that our site in Oxford, on the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) campus (click here to read our review), would be the safest place for us to wait out the weather.
Here we are, parked across from the baseball stadium on campus. It is a good spot for bad weather. We are on pavement - nice when steady, heavy rain is falling. The parking lot slopes away from us – good drainage. We are on a hill – no worries about the flash flood watches and warnings that have been issued for our county.
We have 50 amps of electricity – needed to run our A/C, because it is warm, humid, and close inside when you have to keep the windows closed. We have cable TV (!) – great for keeping track of local weather. We have strong Verizon service here – we can watch NOAA radar on the internet in real time. And of course, we have plenty of food on hand. :)
I took the above photo yesterday afternoon after we arrived, the pavement still dry and the sky a light gray. After we arrived, we had two things on the agenda before the rain began: visit the Oxford Square, and figure out where we should go in the event of a tornado. We accomplished both things.
The Oxford Square is a mile from here, and we set off on foot. As soon as we arrived, we realized it was lunchtime, so we headed straight back to the Ajax Diner for another delicious meal. Afterwards, I explored the square and its shops while Odel walked back to the campus. We both had “tornado shelter” news to share when we reunited.
My source, an Ole Miss student staffing the downtown visitor center, suggested going to the campus hotel to shelter in the lobby. Odel’s source, a campus policeman, told Odel how to find the on-campus shelters. By the time I returned, Odel had already visited the small, solid concrete bunkers – and ruled them out for his claustrophobic wife!
So we set off to research the on-campus hotel. Walking through the campus was so pleasant – beautiful green trees and lawns, with lovely buildings, both historic and new. In the hotel’s lobby, a young woman at a desk greeted us, thinking that we might be there as part of the 50-year class reunion – although Odel would not have been allowed to register at Ole Miss 50 years ago.
When we explained why we were visiting, a long and friendly conversation ensued. She is from Yazoo City, the Mississippi town south of here that was hit by a major tornado a week ago when we were in Huntsville, Alabama. Fortunately, her family, family home, and family business were safe and undamaged, but her hometown is facing serious consequences. “Yes,” she encouraged us, “absolutely, come here to the hotel.” They shelter guests in the basement and she said there was plenty of room for everyone.
Good! Plans in place, we set off to walk the most historic part of the campus, the Circle and the buildings surrounding it. The Lyceum, shown here, opened in 1848 for the first class of Ole Miss students. During the Civil War, it served as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers. In 1962, Ole Miss was integrated when James Meredith registered at the Lyceum after a night-long riot that left two people dead and dozens injured. We examined the bullet damage still visible on a few of the columns.
Several times during our walk through campus, Odel and I recalled southern segregation and the struggle for civil rights. Odel grew up in segregated Memphis. He was a couple of years younger than 14-year old Emmet Till, when Till was beaten and murdered in Mississippi in 1955, within a couple hundred miles of Memphis. He was one of only 13 black students enrolled at Memphis State when he began classes in 1961. Certainly, in 1962, Odel and I could not have walked through the Ole Miss campus together safely.
Now, 48 years after Ole Miss was forcibly segregated, we’re parked on campus with our biggest worries caused by the weather. Definitely an improvement!