10 Clever Facts We Learned at WonderWorks in Branson, Missouri

We passed up going to WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and I instantly regretted it after we left.

Driving away toward the Great Smokies National Park, I suddenly remembered a Facebook post from a friend, Janie Buys, a few years ago mentioning the attraction. It seems she had doubts about visiting it with husband Phil and son Phil Jr., but after she went in, it didn’t take her long to enjoy it.

A couple of weeks later into our month long roadtrip, Dodie and I were pleasantly surprised to see a WonderWorks in Branson, Missouri.

Dodie navigating through a kaleidoscope tunnel.

Dodie, a retired nurse, has always enjoyed science and the attraction bills itself as “a science focused indoor amusement park, combines education and entertainment. With over 100 hands-on exhibits – there is something unique and challenging for all ages.”

The building is enticing enough to spur anyone’s interest. It looks like a giant four story venue turned upside down. As soon as we walked in, the floor was the ceiling and the ceiling was the floor.

The WonderWorks entrance.

It was fun to experience the power of 84mph hurricane–force winds in the Hurricane Shack. Some chose to make huge, life–sized bubbles in the Bubble Lab.

I enjoyed the NASA Space area but we elected not to get strapped into the Astronaut Training Gyro to “experience zero gravity.” We also passed lying on the death–defying Bed of Nails.

Astronaut Jack.

Here’s the Top 10 Things I Learned at WonderWorks:

1. You can’t see your ears without a mirror.

2. You can’t count your hair.

3. You can’t breath through your nose with your tounge out.

4. You just tried No. 3.

6. When you tried No. 3 you realized that it is possible, but you looked like a dog.

7. You are smiling right now, because you were fooled.

8. You skipped No. 5.

9. You just checked to see if there is a No. 5.

10. Share this with your friends so they can have fun too.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Hurricane Ida 2nd Only to Katrina in Intensity for Louisiana

Hurricane Ida is now the second most intense hurricane to strike the state of Louisiana on record, only behind Hurricane Katrina.

Ida’s strength tied for the strongest landfall in the state by maximum winds with Hurricane Laura in 2020 and the historical 1856 Last Island hurricane.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that the damage is “catastrophic,” and the death toll would go up “considerably.”

“The damage is really catastrophic,” Bel Edwards told NBC on Monday morning. “This storm packed a very powerful punch. It delivered the surge that was forecasted, the wind that was forecasted, and the rain.”

As it approached and made landfall on the Louisiana coast, Ida reached its peak intensity with winds of 150 mph and a minimum central barometric pressure of 929 mbar.

“Well, we have one confirmed death. I don’t want to tell you what I’m hearing, because what I’m hearing points to a lot more than that. They’re not yet confirmed, and I really don’t want to go there,” Bel Edwards said. “I’m certain that as the day goes on, we will have more deaths.”

An Ascension Parish man was killed when a tree fell on his home.

Nearly 600,000 people in New Orleans urban area lost power, and 400,000 more in the wider Louisiana region with a total of more than one million out.

The French Quarter in New Orleans experienced severe damage including destroyed roofs and building collapses. The historic Karnofsky Shop collapsed.

Severe damage was recorded across the coastal areas of Louisiana, including in New Orleans, Golden Meadow, Houma, Galliano, LaPlace, and Grand Isle. 

An emergency flood warning was issued for Braithwaite when one of the levees was overtopped.

In Houma, whiteout conditions were recorded, with flying debris and many houses damaged or destroyed. 

Many homes were destroyed in Galliano, with many trees uprooted, cars overturned and power lines brought down. The Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Galliano was damaged, losing a significant amount of the roof.

One of the ferries used on the Lower Algiers-Chalmette route across the Mississippi River broke free of its mooring during the hurricane, drifted up the river, and then ran aground.

A section of the Gulf Outlet Dam was overtopped by the storm surge. 

The Mississippi River was decided near Belle Chase flowing in reverse due to the volume of the surge. The St. Stephen Catholic School in New Orleans lost its roof.

An anemometer in Port Fourchon recorded a gust of 172 mph when Ida came ashore.

Major damage was reported in Jefferson Parish, where nearly every home reported missing or destroyed roofs. A major power transformer tower in was twisted and destroyed, leading to widespread blackouts. 

Four hospitals in the state were damaged, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Ida was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

2021 Weather Forecasts for Hurricanes and Tornadoes

Warm water is a key indicator for tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic Ocean, and with forecasted temperatures to be continually rising throughout the 2021 summer, it will translate to more fuel for tropical storms and hurricanes that inevitably develop.

“Our biggest concern is the fact that water temperatures across the Atlantic are already warmer than normal over a larger part of the basin,” said AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, who has been forecasting the tropics for 45 years.

Click for Safety & Preparation Tips

2021 is expected to be an above-normal season for tropical activity in the Atlantic. A normal season is considered to have 14 storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Last year, 13 hurricanes formed, and six of those reached the major hurricane threshold.

In terms of the number of storms that will directly impact the mainland U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, three to five are expected, according to Kottlowski’s team. The annual average number of direct impacts is 3.5.

Paul Pastelok, who leads AccuWeather’s team of long-range forecasters, thinks overall impacts from tropical systems in 2021 is expected to be a bit lower than the past few years, but it is not zero.

“We do feel there could be a named storm in June, but the way the pattern is setting up in June in the eastern U.S.,” Paul Pastelok, who leads AccuWeather’s team of long-range forecasters, thinks anything that might develop “may be forced away from the coast or head well down to the south towards Mexico or South Texas.”

The other zone where there is an elevated threat for a tropical strike stretches from the Atlantic coast of Florida through the Carolinas.

This does not necessarily mean that the central Gulf Coast (Louisiana had two terrible strikes in 2020) will be completely safe from tropical systems. However, forecasters believe the overall chance of a landfalling tropical storm or hurricane will be lower than it was in 2020.

They are predicting 16 to 20 named storms, 7 to 10 hurricanes and three to five direct hits on the U.S. A typical season features 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three or four U.S. landfalls.

As residents who live along stretches of the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard will need to prepare for potential impacts from tropical systems, those across the north-central U.S. should brace for an uptick in severe weather events.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) reported 253 tornadoes in 2021 as of April 23, below the average of around 400 for late April. However, AccuWeather forecasters believe that a big uptick in tornado activity will occur in May and June.

AccuWeather is predicting between 1,300 and 1,400 twisters by the end of 2021. This is slightly higher than the number of tornadoes in 2020 and right around the average of 1,383, according to SPC data.

Power Outage Tips

Tis the season for more storms and power outages. When the big snow and ice storm of February 2021 hit, we were prepared. For 20 years I was over Facilities Management at H-E-B Food-Drugs stores, offices and their properties throughout Texas and Mexico. Here are some quick tips I learned along the way that can help families stay safe.

Before an outage, create an easily accessible emergency kit with these items:

  • flashlights
  • one gallon of water per person
  • hand-crank radio
  • tool box
  • batteries
  • blankets
  • cash
  • first-aid supplies
  • manual can opener
  • nonperishable food items like granola bars, jerky and trail mix

Install appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer. Doing this will help you tell if your food gets warmer than 40 degrees F—the danger zone for food-borne illness.

Keep the fridge and freezer full to keep everything cold longer. Tuck extra bags and bottles of water into the fridge and freezer to maximize the cold. If you anticipate an outage or receive notice of a planned one, think ahead and set your refrigerator temperature to the coldest setting.



During an outage

It’s a good idea to report your outage first. Then, turn off all appliances and lights that were on when service was disrupted, leaving a lamp on so you’ll know when power is restored.

Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed. Unopened, a refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours without power, and a freezer will keep food cold for about 48 hours without power.

Turn off the circuit breakers to major appliances. When power is restored, this prevents overloads.



Avoid burning candles as this creates a fire hazard. Stick to flashlights. Even headlamps work, especially for the kids!

Once power is restored, avoid overloading your circuits by turning appliances back on in 15-minute intervals.

We encourage you to be prepared before an outage happens. Create your emergency kit and practice what to do during an outage with your family. Be prepared and stay safe.

Safety, Preparation, How To’s For Emergencies, Weather, Prepping and Survival

Here is our suite of informative articles to keep you safe and prepared. We’ll add more as seasons and situations change.

Winter, Snow, Ice and Storms Road Safety Basics

Protecting Property From Freezing Weather

How to Prepare for Power Outages and No Electricity

Bug Out Bag List

Civil Riots and Protests Near You

Severe Weather Camping Tips

Bandanas as a Safety and Survival Tool

Lightning and thunderstorms are a leading cause of injury or death in weather related hazards.

April begins peak season for power outages, but we should be prepared anytime. Here are some worthwhile tips you’ll be glad to know.

My First Great Adventure Was In a Torrential Storm

I miss rain.

When I was seven, we lived on West Ansley in south San Antonio. Three Dennis families, lived side by side, with six acres among us. It was my last innocent summer in many ways.

In just a few months Blackie, my devoted Cocker Spaniel would be dead. Nineteen days later, I would see President John F. Kennedy. The next day he would be dead too.

From age eight on, all of my summers (with the ONLY exception being 2020) were filled working: gas stations, hauling junk (it’s called recycling now), mowing, hauling hay, roofing, foundation repairs, car lot, pest control, Monorail train driver, construction laborer, reporter, private investigator…).

But this summer of 1963, was a good one. One evening, channel 5 KENS television weatherman Bill Schomette told us it was going to rain the next day. I asked my parents if it rains, could “I go watch it in the shed?”

They agreed so before I went to bed that night, I prepared by making a peanut butter sandwich to take. After all, this would be my first solo journey away from home. Well, technically it was still home, but I had to trek a full acre of our back field to make it to the small horse shed.

I was so determined to be alone, I didn’t even want Blackie to join me.

Weatherman Shomette was brilliant. He was right on target. When we heard thunder and saw dark clouds rolling in from the southeast, Mom grabbed my trusty outer space lunchbox and placed a bag of Fritos corn chips and a Thermos full of cherry KoolAide next to my sandwich in it.

“If it starts raining real bad, you must stay in the shed” she said. “Wait it out. I don’t want you out and exposed if it starts lightning.”

I walked out the door–protected by my Bilbrey Lumber Company Little League baseball cap–carrying my lunchbox and wondering what “exposed” meant. It sounded scary.

It turned out I was a good 60 yards away from the shed when all hell broke loose. An explosive crack of lightning and rapid rain welcomed me to a real world definition of “exposed.”

I ran for my life as the storm turned to torrential. Thankfully, I was greeted with a lawn chair that I learned later my father set out for me earlier.

The experience was riveting. I imagined myself an astronaut, isolated and brave. The raindrops pounded the tin roof.

I made earplugs from some of the paper napkins my mother had in the lunch box. Somehow those paper plugs helped with the bravery, but soon the rain was so hard I could barely see 30 feet away. Certainly my house seemed to have disappeared. It seemed to me Blackie was in there safely tucked in and might as well just have been miles away.

I never cried. But I came close. The umbilical cord of safety had certainly been cut. I thought about what Dorothy Gale said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

Then I remembered the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion. Just like them, I had a brain, heart, and courage.

It was a good 45 minutes before the rain slowed enough for me to recognize the house again. Mom had turned the back patio light on. It appeared to be a beacon, a lighthouse like pirates–or sailors in search of Moby Dick–must have seen.

As the rain lightened, I enjoyed my space rations and most of my KoolAide. A gambit of emotions and thoughts prevailed. When the weather finally calmed down enough, I decided to leave my lunchbox safely in the lawn chair and journey back home.

What a journey that was. It became a trudging expedition of sludge and mud. I lost one tennis shoe in the thick oozing black slush. But I marched on.

Momma must have been watching as I fell a few times because she came out with an umbrella, turned on the waterhose and met me at the edge of the backyard. The grass never felt so good. But she made me strip down to my underwear while she hosed off me, my clothes and my one shoe.

Dorothy was right. There is no place like home. After a warm shower I spent most of the evening with Blackie by my side. When Dad came home from work, he rubbed the top of my head a few times and laughed as Mom told him about my brave feats.

I’ve been through many rain events, since then–hurricanes, floods, and more–but even now there is a soothing reminder that it is okay to experience those feelings of a seven year old.

Emotions are necessary to move forward. We must let whatever we’re feeling flow freely so we can make it to the sunshine of what comes next.

Sometimes, our emotions are more like a torrential downpour, flooding and overflowing within us, begging for a space to reside.

Today, I remember the sunshine of my mother’s laughter as the clouds rolled away, and know it will always return when the rains pour back again.

But what I learned most from that summer, and many seasons later, is that sometimes, sunshine is within us. Sometimes it is found in another person.

I love the premise that remembering the warmth in our loved ones can protect us from the storms ahead.

“For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!” John 16:33

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Hurricane Hanna Price Gouging Warning Alert

Following the severe weather and flooding in South Texas during Hurricane Hanna, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today warned that state law prohibits price gouging in the wake of a declared disaster. Under state law, once the governor issues a declaration, vendors are prohibited from charging exorbitant prices for necessities such as drinking water, food, batteries, generators, towing, clothing, medical supplies, lodging, repair work and fuel during and after the crisis.

“Natural disasters can pull communities together. Unfortunately, they can also pull in unscrupulous individuals looking to scam vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General Paxton. “As our communities work to rebuild and recover, my office will continue to aggressively prevent disaster scams and stands ready to prosecute any price-gouger who takes advantage of Texans.”

Price gouging is illegal, and a disaster declaration triggers stiffer penalties under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for the counties of Aransas, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Dimmit, Duval, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Hidalgo, Jackson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, La Salle, Live Oak, Matagorda, McMullen, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria, Webb, Wharton, Willacy, and Zapata.

Texans in affected counties who believe they have encountered price gouging should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection/file-consumer-complaint

Cash Is King and Doesn’t Crash, Electronics and Digitals Do

Forget about cash being dirty. Stop being so easily led. Cash has been around for a very, very, very long time and it gives you control over how you trade with the world. It gives you independence.

There’s a story going around where a man supposedly contracted Covid because of a $20 bill he had handled. There is the same chance of Covid being on a card as being on cash. If you cannot see how utterly ridiculous this assumption is, then there is little hope.

If there’s a power outage, how are you going to pay if you can’t swipe or insert your card?

A recent comprehensive study of 14,000 people by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found consumers spend less when paying by cash.

Bad for privacy

When you pay cash, there is no middleman; you pay, you receive goods or services — end of story. When a middleman becomes part of the transaction, that middleman often gets to learn about the transaction — and under our weak privacy laws, has a lot of leeway to use that information as it sees fit. 

A cashless society means no cash. Zero. It doesn’t mean mostly cashless and you can still use a ‘bit of cash here & there’. Cashless means fully digital, fully traceable, fully controlled.

If you support a cashless society you aren’t fully aware of what you are asking for. The harms that can come from limiting everything to electronic systems can effect privacy invasion abuses, profiling, financial loses, etc.

 The Federal Reserve stated that debit cards are the most frequently used means of making all purchases. Cash is employed in 26% of all transactions and 49% of those under $10. But now every age group up to the baby boomers have now shifted to digital means and plastic for making transactions than using cash and Not surprisingly, millennials lead the pack.

Despite these trends, a few states and cities have passed laws requiring businesses to accept cash, and here’s why: Some elderly people still don’t do technology. They don’t even have a cellphone, much less a PayPal account for transferring money.

Many poor people don’t have credit cards or even bank accounts. Some 6.5% of American households are “unbanked,” according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Cashless establishments discriminate against this group.

In the Consumer Protection study mentioned above, they analyzed those who had a revolving balance on their credit cards. They wanted to see if financial “rules of thumb” could actually help these consumers lower their revolving credit card debt.

They tested two rules: one was paying cash for purchases under $20, and the second was reminding customers that paying with a card can add 20% to a purchase when you revolve that credit card balance.

They sent out these reminders via email and banner ads and even sent customers magnets that included one of two reminders:

  • “Don’t swipe the small stuff. Use cash when it’s under $20.”
  • “Credit keeps charging. It adds approximately 20 percent to the total.”

The study found that when consumers were reminded to pay with cash, they had less revolving debt six months later. Researchers concluded:

Consumers who received the first rule of thumb had, on average, $104 less in revolving debt six months later; their balances were 2 percent lower than their baseline average.

A cashless society means:

  • If you are struggling with your mortgage on a particular month, you can’t do an odd job to get you through.
  • Your child can’t go & help the local farmer to earn a bit of summer cash.
  • No more cash slipped into the hands of a child as a good luck charm or from their grandparent when going on holidays.
  • No more money in birthday cards.
  • No more piggy banks for your child to collect pocket money & to learn about the value of earning.
  • No more cash for a rainy day fund or for that something special you have been putting $20 a week away for.
  • No more charity collections.
  • No more selling bits & pieces from your home that you no longer want/need for a bit of cash in return.
  • No more cash gifts from relatives or loved ones.

What a cashless society does guarantee:

  • Banks have full control of every single penny you own.
  • Every transaction you make is recorded.
  • All your movements & actions are traceable.
  • Access to your money can be blocked at the click of a button when/if banks need ‘clarification’ from you which will take about 2 weeks, a thousand questions answered & many passwords.
  • You will have no choice but to declare & be taxed on every dollar in your possession.
  • If your transactions are deemed in any way questionable, by those who create the questions, your money will be frozen, ‘for your own good’.

If you are a customer, pay with cash. If you are a shop owner, remove those ridiculous signs that ask people to pay by card. Cash is a legal tender, it is our right to pay with cash. Banks are making it increasingly difficult to lodge cash & that has nothing to do with a virus, nor has this ‘dirty money’ trend.

Cash is King.

Please open your eyes. Please stop believing everything you are being told. Almost every single topic in today’s world is tainted with corruption & hidden agendas.

Please stop telling others that we are what’s wrong with the world when you hail the most corrupt members of society as your heroes.

Politics and greed is what is wrong with the world; not those who are trying to alert you to the reality in which you are blindly floating along whilst being immobilized by irrational fear.

Fear created to keep you doing and believing in exactly what you are complacently doing.

Pay with cash and say no to a totally cashless society while you still have the choice.

Parts of this article has been attributed to Dave Ramsey, James Woods and others on the web. No matter who first wrote it, the information is important to your future and your freedom.

Clever Journeys: Severe Weather Camping Tips

How much wind would it take to blow you away?

Depending on what you weigh, the strongest sustained winds a large man might be able to withstand without getting blown away is near 70 mph. The maximum gust he could stand without getting blown away is roughly 95 mph.

Severe Weather Events

The following weather events are the most common while camping.  Knowing what to do can make you more educated in case of an emergency.  If you are camping in high-risk areas for hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, and flooding, be sure to have your alerts/radios activated during your stay.

Lightning

There are no reliable warning signs that lightning is going to strike.  If you are outdoors when a lightning storm occurs, your first thought should be to get to shelter to a building or inside your camper as quickly as possible.

If that is not feasible, the next thing to consider is crouching down close to the ground until the lightning passes. 

Make sure you are not the tallest thing around or close to a lone tree or tall object during a lightning storm. 

Generally it’s a good idea to unplug your power at a campground when a big storm is coming. If lightening hits the ground, even on the other side of the campground, it can cause a surge of power through the line into your RV and cause things to burn out. You are usually safe to run your built in generator.

The 30-30 Rule is an easy way to determine the threat of lightning in your area: 30 Seconds: Count the seconds between seeing lightning and hearing thunder. If this time is less than 30 seconds, lightning is a threat. Seek shelter immediately.

Over 60% of lightning fatalities happen when people biking, boating, hiking, camping or fishing.

Most lightning victims are close to safe shelter but don’t head towards it.

Lightening kills more people each year than Tornadoes and Hurricanes combined.

Tornadoes and High Winds

Tornado Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states. 

Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

If a Tornado Warning is issued get below ground as quickly as possible.

Get to the nearest storm shelter or basement. If that is not available, try to find a small interior room on the lowest floor the closest sturdy building.

Be sure to leave vehicles as they can go airborne in a strong tornado.

If you are caught in the open during a tornado, lie flat on the ground or try to find a ditch or culvert and roll into a ball to protect your head and torso.

Avoid highway overpasses as a place of shelter, they become wind tunnels during a tornado.

There are several atmospheric warning signs that precipitate a tornado’s arrival:

A dark, often greenish, sky  

Wall clouds or an approaching cloud of debris  

Large hail often in the absence of rain  

Before a tornado strikes, the wind may die down and the air may become very still  

A loud roar similar to a freight train may be heard  

An approaching cloud of debris, even if a funnel is not visible

Despite great strides made in meteorology that help us understand and predict tornadoes, there are still many unknown variables. Advance warning and proper precautions are the only certainties.

Tornadoes can occur at any hour but usually strike during the late afternoon and early evening (3 to 9 p.m. although I had a friend who his lost his life to one at 10:30 a.m.). Most move from southwest to northeast but can move in any direction.

High winds knocked train off bridge in New Mexico, 2019.

They have an average speed of 30 mph, but speeds can vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph.

Normally a tornado will stay on the ground no more than 20 minutes, however, one tornado can touch the ground several times in different areas.

 Wind Advisory means that sustained winds of 30 mph for one hour and/or frequent gusts of at least 45 mph are occurring or expected within the next 36 hours. These winds make it difficult to drive high profile vehicles. 

Winds ranging from 55-63 mph are classed as storm winds, and often result in significant structural damage to RVs, buildings and structures. as well as uproot trees.

Thunderstorm winds of 60-75 mph can overturn unanchored mobile homes (many are unanchored), blow over moving tractor trailers, destroy the average sized shed, and rip some house roofs off. Even worse, these winds are capable of downing trees large enough to easily kill a person.

One study indicated the minimum overturning wind speeds needed to overturn an 18 foot travel trailer was 53 miles per hour (MPH) from a  perpendicular direction to the RV.

For a 29.5 foot motor home: 65 MPH.

For a 29,983 lb. semI-trailer: 73 MPH.

For a 16.4 Class B camper van: 101 MPH.

If you have time and can do it safely when heavy winds are imminent, point your rig in the direction the wind is coming from. This will greatly reduce the impact compared to if you are getting hit broadside.

Put slides and awnings in and stabilizing jacks down. 

Stay hitched up to your vehicle if possible, or hitch-up. Being attached to another large object could lessen impact some.

If motorhome has air bags release the air so that you have less bounce.
If possible and it looks more safe, park next to a wall or hillside to potentially lessen wind impact and even hail damage. (We recently parked to the exterior wall of a trash compactor at a Wendy’s during a sudden hailstorm. Because we were on the side away from the direction the hail was coming down at a strong angle, we had no damages).

It’s vital to move your rig if you are parked under trees. Branches and limbs often go through roofs and windows, causing severe damage or total devastation.

Bottom line: if possible seek quick and more reliable shelter (restrooms, caves, basements, etc.). Variousness in materials, type, weight and conditions will cause different results.

Don’t try to ride out any severe storm in a RV.Even if they may seem sturdy, they do not have a suitable foundation and can be blown over by strong winds or swept away in the event of flooding. Look for the nearest solid structure if a tornado or high winds are present.

Avoid driving in high winds. A motorhome or trailer in motion has far different aerodynamics and dangers than those stationary.

Flash Floods

A flash flood is a flood with a rapid onset, generally less than six hours. 

You may not know a rainstorm 6 miles away happens until the water rushes and fills reservoirs where you are. Be aware if you are camping in a low ground area that is subject to flooding before you camp there.

If you are in a flood zone and get a warning, get to high ground as soon as possible.

Be especially cautious at night when you are driving. Don’t cross flooded roads.  It only takes 18 – 24 inches of water to float an average vehicle. If you are surrounded by water that is not moving, abandon the vehicle and move to higher ground.

If there’s enough time and conditions are safe enough before a storm, drive away from the area.

Otherwise, store the RV in a secure facility as far away as possible from the predicted path of a storm.

If you must park your RV in an open area, make sure it’s on high ground and away from large trees.

Severe Thunderstorms

Know your weather terminology:

Watch: A Watch is when conditions are favorable to become a problem. Be on Alert! Have your weather radios available to receive warnings.

Warning: A Warning is when a weather event is occurring or is expected shortly. If one is issued, it is time to take action.

Severe Thunderstorm: This is a storm that produces one or more of the following: a wind greater than 58 mph, hail resulting in 1 inch or larger, or a tornado.

If one of these is forecasted you will want to seek a way to break camp and move out of the path of the storm or seek indoor shelter.

The Three A’s of Campground Weather Safety

Years ago, before the days of cell phones, I was tent camping at Garner State Park in Texas with friends and had no way of knowing danger was ahead.

Lightning, strong winds and heavy rain were our only notice in the middle of the night. Concerned of flash flooding from the Frio River, we bit the bullet, grabbed what we could and drove to higher ground.

Others weren’t so fortunate.  We lost a tent, blankets and lawn chairs. Some lost their lives.

Even today, because of that experience, I stay alert of weather conditions.

The Three A’s of Campground Weather Safety

Awareness

Check the forecast before you travel or set up camp.  Once you are in camping mode or vacation mind, you are planning for fun! But weather can change that quickly so know what the weather is going to be like over the next couple days so you can make good decisions about your activities and destinations.  Use a reliable weather information website like NOAA  or the National Weather Service.

If you are in an area that has cell service, then a weather app with emergency weather notification is a great thing to have set up.  They have a free and paid version.  The app will send you a notification when there are watches and warnings for the area you are in.  Be sure to have your app set up to notify you even if your other notifications are off and also have your location setting turned on.

Alertness

Have your weather radios set up to alert you when there is a threat.  There are different kinds of weather radio options. We have one we can crank if all the other options (solar, batteries, electrical outlet plugin) fail or are unavailable.

Having a radio that doubles as a walkie-talkie can be a good choice to make the most of small space storage.

Frio River near Garner State Park, Texas.

Have a weather contingency plan.  What will you do if the weather suddenly changes and you are in danger?  Everyone on your trip should have a job to do and know how to do it in case of an emergency evacuation.

In case of an emergency, how will you make contact with help?  What is cell service is lost? Using emergency radios can make the difference in campground weather safety.

Action

Have a plan on what to do if there is threatening weather that may put you in danger.

Know where you are – use a GPS to help identify your location in case you need it.

Know your evacuation plan:  If you need to evacuate where are you going?  Are you going to stick it out?

Use your weather radios to keep abreast of changes in weather in your area.

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. “It may be too late the second time,” Texas Park & Wildlife Department officials said. “The first time we can get them out by land, the second time it will be by boat if we can get to them at all.”

🔼Don’t attempt to drive through flooded roads, even if the water looks shallow. “If you can’t see the road, don’t try it,” the Texas Park and Wildlife official said. “It’ll be a deadly mistake.”

🔼Watch out for downed power lines and do not go near them, even around residences.

🔼If you get a weather notification for an approaching storm of any kind, start to clean up your campsite and put things away that could potentially become airborne in a wind gust situation.  Your RV windows, motorcycles and your camping neighbors will love you for it.

A few things to remember:

Have flashlights ready in case of power outage and you don’t have RV house batteries.

Have a weather radio and/or weather app set to alert you when there is a weather event

Have activity appropriate apparel and shoes for your outings in case of unexpected weather.  Dress in layers to avoid discomfort in changes of temperatures.

Keep a positive attitude!  You can’t control the weather but you can wait out bad weather by planning to have games and activities to do when bad weather strikes.

If your plans have to change because of weather, be sure to have some alternate activities planned.  A stash of games and cards can turn a disappointment into another kind of fun!

Texas flood.

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How Our Father’s Junk Saved People

A few years ago, when Johnny Jennings was just 86 years old, he gained a bit of positive notoriety when he donated some money to the local Georgia Baptist Home for Children.

It wasn’t a small chunk of change. The Ringold, Ga. resident was not wealthy.

Johnny Jennings at 86.

Mr. Jennings had been collecting junk and recycling since 1985. It started out as something for his son, Brent and him to do together. It was a way to bond and show his only child the value of working and earning money.

“We used to use it as time together,” Brent Jennings told ABC News in 2017. “We’d walk roads and pick up cans and sell it and take the money and put it in a savings account. When I bought my first house, I had enough from recycling to make my first down payment on my home.”

After Brent left home at age 20, his father continued to recycle. Mr. Jennings wore out three trucks and countless sets of tires in the process.

He began donating the proceeds to the Home for Children along the way. By 2016, Jennings donated just enough money to make his grand total donated $400,000.00!!!

Yes you read that right!!! Mr. Jennings, at age 86 donated $400,000 to the Georgia Baptist Home for Children over a time frame of 32 years!

An account of his Recycling Report that year (2016) revealed….

Paper Sold 401,280 lbs (201 tons)
Aluminum Cans 51,565 (cans)
Pennies collected 32,040

Total for 32 years
Total Paper Sold 9,810,063 lbs
Total Pennies $20,275.20 = 24 miles
Trees Saved 79,000

Mr. Jennings (right) presents another donation.

During each weekday residents would likely see Jennings driving around town picking up paper from local businesses and churches and taking it to the Chattanooga Recycle Center on Central Avenue.

From there he would head home and load the truck up again with recyclables that people have dropped off at his house. Jennings normally loaded his truck by himself. In 2020, his donations coupled with monies others have contributed due to his influence, are closing in on $1/2 million.

At 86, when the rest of the world found out he’d experienced two mini-strokes, neighbors began to pitch in and help with some of the lifting and loading.

The Christian ministry that provides care for troubled children and families has been a focus of Brent Jennings since he was a teenager.

Mr. and Mrs. Jennings (early family portrait)

“He went with a member of his church and when they got ready to leave, three little boys grabbed his legs and asked him if he would be their daddy,” Brent said of his father. “He said right there, ‘I’m going to do what I can as long as I can for the Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes.'”

Jennings, has been a trustee emeritus, delivering a check usually in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 to the charity every year at their annual board meeting. As long as his father is able, Brent Jennings drives his dad the three hours to the nearest campus.

“They’ve been a mom and dad to thousands of children through the children’s home,” said Brent. “My dad doesn’t see the $400,000. He sees the faces of those kids.”

My own father was a natural junker. I started out at age five, living on the Southside of San Antonio, accompanying him on his junk routes. (Years later, my sister Bobbi would join us. As I became busy with important things like Little League, sometimes she’d go solo with him.)

On his days off, Dad, or San Antonio Police Officer Walter “Corky” Dennis, would strike out early mornings on his route that included places like Precision Manufacturing, Walter Keller Battery Company and H-E-B Construction (Yes, of H-E-B Food/Drugs fame. Ironically, years later as Director of Facilities Management for them, I officed at that same location).

Our father, Walter ‘Corky’ Dennis managed my Little League baseball team in 1966 and 1967.

I learned to sort and separate different types of metals (copper, iron, tin, aluminum…) into 55 gallon drums on the back of his 21 foot “junk trailer.”

For years our goal was to strip as much copper wire, haul as much metal and gather as many used batteries as we could to get them to Newell Salvage, Monterrey Salvage, Ashley Salvage or other recycling centers before they closed each junk day.

I suppose, being born after the Great Depression and during the rationing days of World War II, junking was in Dad’s blood.

Once my Grandpa Jack L. Dennis announced to his grandkids he was going to start a fund for each of us. The deal was, for every penny, nickle, dime or even quarter we saved and put in the Rexall pill bottle with our individual name on it, he would match it.

Immediately, on the days Dad was at work and couldn’t junk, I’d hook up  my red wagon (modified with a ‘fence’ to maximize loads) to my banana seated bike. My mission: gather and sell as many soda (.03 cents each) and beer (.05 cents) bottles as I could.

Pulling that wagon on Commercial Avenue as far south as Gillette and north to S.W. Military Drive (including the motherlode areas of Six Mile Creek), I’d earn a good $4-$6 a day. It might have taken 2 or 3 loads to Paul Woodall’s beer joint on the corner of Hutchins and Commercial, but I’d get the job done. Every now and then, on especially hot days, Mr. Woodall would treat me to a cold Big Red in an ice cold frosted beer mug for good measure.

Well, eventually Grandpa Dennis had to put a halt to the grandkids savings accounts. He’d swear to me for years that he stopped after I’d “graduated from pill bottles to Foldger’s Coffee cans. Grandma said we couldn’t afford it anymore.”

Now Dad was always helping people out. In my preteen and early teenage years he owned a used car lot with another police officer, Sargeant Doyle Soden, on Commercial. I worked there washing cars, charging batteries, and repairs.

We’d spend a lot of time going to automobile and truck junk yards to salvage parts for not only his cars for sale, but many times to rebuild junk cars TO GIVE (yes, for free) to those in need.

Usually these were starter cars for teenagers that were in some kind of trouble, or maybe they were from a broken or abusive home. But on at least half a dozen cases he would give a car to some guy he may have arrested or found drunk and took him home instead of to jail. It didn’t matter if they were Mexican, Black or Anglo, I saw (and often helped) him get cars ready and give them away.

“If they’ll stay out of trouble, be good to their family and get a job, I’ll give them the title,” he said.

Being a policeman, Dad saw some of the worst in people, but he also didn’t mind helping anyone who was willing to help themselves.

During the later 1960s and early 70s, when there was floods from hurricanes or bad storms, Dad and I would take his wrecker and we’d actually go rescue people stranded in their cars or in trees. Usually it was along Six Mile Creek, but also around areas south if Espada Park.

He’d wade out with a rope attached to his waist, holding some rigging and the hook from the cable of the wench. Sometimes it would be pouring, but I’d wait for his signal. At the right time I’d turn the handle and the next thing I knew there’d either be a vehicle or a person attached with his rigging being wrenched toward me. It was an amazing thing for an 11 or 12 year old boy to see–and actually participate in.

At age 14, I sold my first car at C&D (Corky and Doyle) Auto Sales. It was a 1958 Edsel. When he came home from work that evening and found out, he was so proud. I earned $50 and it was more money than I had ever had in my wallet. Today that’s the equivalent of $368.54.

With that $50, money from selling bottles and buying stamps for a U.S. Savings Bond booklet in elementary school (Mom was Homeroom Mother and sold them each Wednesday, grades 2-6) and other odd jobs, I opened my first ever savings account with San Antonio Savings Association with a balance of $212.56 (worth $1561+ today).

On my 16th birthday, in 1971, after I blew out the candles and we cut the cake, I opened up a present–a small box, gift wrapped–and inside were car keys.

“Your car is outside waiting for you,” my Dad grinned.

It was a seven-year-old 1963 Chevrolet Impala, freshly painted green and gold, McCollum High Cowboys school colors. What a proud moment, but I worried how my parents could ever afford such a nice car for a present.

Years later, my mother told me how. When we would go junking and recycling over the years, Dad would keep some of the day’s earnings in a hidden spot. Together, with the proceeds he held from the profits of selling that Edsel a couple of years prior, he was able to buy and paint that Impala.

Today, my sister and I both have empathy and special feelings for those who recycle, reuse or repurpose anything.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Pablo Picasso… This is Mr. Jennings favorite quote and he sure lives by it.

Bug Out Bag List

Even before the global pandemic of 2020 we were prepared in the event evacuation was needed.

For many years I lead the Emergency Command Center for H-E-B Food/Drugs during various disasters throughout Texas.

This included strategic and tactical mitigation, preparation, and recovery operations for scores of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, nearby hazmat incidents, etc.

In my family, we determined our Bug Out Bags would hold us for 72 hours each. Depending on ‘indicators’ (weather, how far out and hurricane landfall projections, civil unrest, forest fire assumptions…) we would stay in place unless there was potential for immediate danger. Bugging out is just to get to another location.


Bug out bag inventory

1. 2 Oversize garbage bag (Use for shelter or improvise sleeping bag packed with leaves)
2. Ziploc bags all sizes
3. 2 rain ponchos
4. Two packs of handwarmers
5. Collapsible water bottle
6. Water purification tablets
7. Water neutralizing tablets
8. Coffee filters for straining water
9. Notebook and pen
10. Duck tape
11. Combination whistle, compass,
12. Klenexes
13. Toilet paper
14. Rubber gloves
15. Spare reading glasses and glasses repair kit
16. Too mini bottles of alcohol (medicinal purposes only)
17. Wet wipes
18. Sunscreen
19. Parachute cord
20. Plastic forks and spoons
21. Beef and chicken bouillon cubes, sugar packs, salt and pepper
22.  hygiene kit includes: Soap, Germx, toothbrush and toothpaste, toothpicks, expanding towel/washcloth, Dental floss (can also be used as string to put up a shelter,etc)
23. Sewing kit
24. Light/fire starting kit: threeglow sticks, cigarette lighters and waterproof matches, tea light candle, medicine bottle filled with tender, fire starter
25. First aid kit: alcohol wipes, baking soda, Chapstick, superglue, Q-tips, safety pins, syringes, scalpel blades, Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Imodium, baggie with iodine, ammonia, sting relief ampules, various skin/ bug relief wipes, zipper bag filled with Band-Aids of all sizes, disposable gloves
26. Socks
27. Gardening type gloves
28. Pantiliners -can be used for bandaging
29. Carabiner
30. Fishing kit

If you’re looking at a week or more, you’re gonna also need more gear. Those are referred to as “inch kits” (inch being an abbreviation for I‘m Never Coming Home).