Linda W. Perkins

In the Eye of the Storm - Navasota Resident Recalls Moment of Terror as Tornado Hit Home

The Navasota Examiner | July 20th, 2016

Navasota examiner 7 20 2016 tornado p1

“It got quiet … and then the gates of hell opened.”

Maura Pavlock was walking out of Navasota Junior High, after her son’s eighth grade graduation, when all at once, everyone in the crowd’s cell phones started going off. The weather warnings had begun. Severe thunderstorms weren’t unusual for this time of year, though, so she didn’t think much about it. Little did she know that what was about to occur would be life changing, haunting her for weeks and months to come.

A tornado watch differs from a tornado warning in that while a watch means conditions may cause a funnel cloud, a warning means one has actually been spotted. Pavlock didn’t see one that day, but she was about to encounter one first hand. Within minutes of leaving the school auditorium, she would find herself literally in the eye of the storm.

Driving back from the school to her home, which sits atop a hillside of pasture land on FM 1227, Pavlock initially wasn’t in too much of a hurry. Her husband had taken their son to a family member’s home, and so she made a quick stop at the store to pick up supplies for a potluck dinner. But when she hit the road leading up to the back side of her property, everything changed.

“That was when I started saying the rosary. I realized that this was no ordinary storm. I didn’t see the tornado, but there was rain and lightning like I’ve never seen before,” Pavlock said.

She had just made it into her driveway and out of her car when lightning struck, just 10 feet away from where she was standing.

“It just blew up,” Pavlock said, “and I just froze, because all I could think is, ‘Oh my god, I’m dead.’ My heart was pounding, my peripheral vision on my left side was gone, and whatever was in my hand, I just threw it.”

That was when she ran. Grabbing her dogs, she raced inside the house and they took shelter in the hallway. At that point, she said, the power was still on in the house and she frantically called her husband to come get her. Before she could finish her call, however, the phone went dead and the lights went out.

The claps of thunder and flashes of lightning continued for a few more moments, but then suddenly, everything stopped. It got eerily quiet, and one of the dogs let out a whimper.

“Then it hit. The noise,” she said, her voice escalating as she recalled the furious sound. “It was as if the gates of hell just opened. It felt like an explosion. Everything just came alive.”

Pavlock described how she could see the dogs’ ball begin spiraling in the entry of the hall, as the animals buried themselves under her legs. She tucked her head in her lap and began to cry.

“I’ve been told it only lasted about two minutes, but it felt like an hour to me,” she said. “Time just stood still.”

When she finally summoned the courage to get up, Pavlock looked around. Water was pouring into the house, from the ceiling and down the walls. Although her roof had not been torn off completely, there was enough damage that it couldn’t hold out the storm that was still raging outside. All she could do was watch as her home was destroyed, minute by minute. With the area flooding, she couldn’t get out and no one could come to her rescue. She didn’t see anyone until 6:00 the next morning.

Recalling that fateful day in May, Pavlock’s eyes fill with tears as she looks around at her home. It’s been almost two months since the storm, but the house has yet to be repaired, due to insurance delays.

The family’s life is still being affected, in both practical and emotional ways. Her 13-year-old son, who mourned the loss of many of his personal belongings, is sleeping on a futon in the game room while his room is under construction. And Pavlock cries as she talks about her cherry wood floors.

“Anyone who knows me, know those floors were my pride and joy,” she said. “I worked hard for many years to have something that was just for me. It was hard to watch them pull (the flooring) out of my house and just take it away.”

“Every time I think I’m good with it, I realize I’m not,” she continued, reaching for a tissue. “I want to erase it from my mind, but I can’t.”

Although she admits she still feels traumatized by the event, Pavlock credits prayer for her ongoing recovery.

“Emotionally, I have a lot of support,” she explained. “I have friends who pray for me and with me. Now I can talk about it without sobbing.”

Despite her own grief, Pavlock is quick to say she tries not to complain. “I know there are those who lost more than me,” referring to a neighboring home that lost its entire upper floor.

“I am grateful. It could have been worse,” she noted. “But I still can’t be in a storm by myself. I don’t want to.”