In March 2022, on day 2 of a five-day Wilderness Medicine senior elective canoe expedition, weather forecasts called for afternoon thunderstorms. We rose early and struck camp to make our day’s required distance. Our goal was to avoid rough water caused by wind. On arrival at our campsite, we rapidly set up tents so that we would be prepared for the change in weather. We felt safe riding out the storm in a campsite we’ve used many times previously, and could not have known about the tornado that would be spawned later that evening.
Our campsite was a forested, sandy berm adjacent to the Tensaw River and one of the few high ground campsites available in the lower Delta. The river is wide and long there, and south winds soon created waves we could not traverse by canoe, forcing us to stay put. To make matters worse, the wind exacerbated the rising tide, and portions of our campsite soon became submerged.
As we waited for the storm, we gathered a good supply of firewood and cooked dinner. Shortly before dark, the skies cleared briefly, and our group relaxed. Heavy rains quickly dashed our high spirits, and we moved into our tents. Soon the warning signals sounded.
At 9:47 PM a chorus of tornado warnings (Figure 2) blared from campers’ cell phones. Not long after, a student approached the expedition leader’s tent asking what to do. As her flashlight cut through the dark, we realized we were in the projected path of a tornado and had no proven answers for her.