Vida En El Valle Blogs: The Latin voice of the central valley.Vida en el Valle Blogs The Latin voice of the central valley

Advertisement
Juan Esparza Rebecca Plevin Daniel Cásarez Olivia Ruiz Irene Rodriguez Cynthia Moreno Community Health Fellowship

Hanford HS graduation: Evacuated.avatar

with 3 comments

Last night I covered Hanford High School’s graduation ceremony. As I drove there, I remembered when I got caught in the fog in Hanford during my very first week on the job. This time, I assumed the highlight of my trip to Hanford would not be weather – it would be the enormous bowl of peach ice cream I planned to devour at Superior Dairy in downtown Hanford.

Yummy... but not quite the highlight of the night

Yummy... but not quite the highlight of the night

Man, was I wrong.

The graduation was held in the school’s football stadium and did not begin until 8 p.m. Even at that hour, it was very hot and spectators fanned themselves with their programs as they waited for the ceremony to begin. But as the ceremony began, with students giving speeches and singing John Lennon’s “Yesterday,” so did the lightning.

At first, the lighting flashed in the distance. Then, the sky got darker, and I swear to you, the lighting was circular, as if it was being blown by tornado winds. I tried to stay focused on my job – photographing the ceremony and keeping an ear out for great quotes – but I found myself distracted by administrators on walkie-talkies, who were reporting that a storm with tornado-like winds and hail was heading directly for Hanford at a rapid pace.

Fireworks after the national anthem. The sky is ominous.

Fireworks after the national anthem. The sky is ominous.

Finally, around 9 p.m., as students were being called up to the stage to receive their diplomas, Principal Cheryl Hunt took the microphone and announced, as calmly as possible, “We have to suspend the ceremony due to weather that is heading right toward us.” She said the safety of the graduates and those in the stands was of the “utmost importance.”

Approximately 380 graduates and their families started pushing their way out of the football stadium and toward the parking lot. The winds – which reached 43 mph, according to the National Weather Service – kicked up so much dust that people had to shield their eyes from the dark, thick, dirty gusts. Rain started falling in huge drops. More lightning. People running. Ahhh.

In all the dust, rain, and commotion, I got disoriented and couldn’t remember where I parked my car. I ran up and down the street, looking for my car and getting wet and dusty. I finally returned to the gym to wait out the storm with the Hanford police, some very kind administrators, and a handful of students and their families. And it was a good thing I waited – there was hail an inch in diameter in Visalia earlier that evening, and the same hail pelted the roof of the high school gym.

Sisters Cristina Contreras and Andrea Gonzalez still celebrated in the gym.

Sisters Cristina Contreras and Andrea Gonzalez still celebrated in the gym.

Around 10 p.m., the storm finally passed Hanford, and a very kind teacher helped me locate my car. As I drove home, I thought about the graduation, made even more memorable by the Valley’s crazy weather patterns.

And my peach ice cream – which was supposed to be the highlight of my night – was at best an afterthought.

P.S. The other highlight of my night? Multiple teachers and security guards asking me if I was a parent who had sneaked on to the field to get better pictures of my child. Really? I look like a parent? I’m normally mistaken for a high school student, not her mother.

Written by Rebecca Plevin

May 29th, 2009 at 9:28 am

3 Responses to 'Hanford HS graduation: Evacuated.'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Hanford HS graduation: Evacuated.'.

  1. fraidy-cat!

    avatar

    teresa

    4 Jun 09 at 9:13 am

  2. um, you look nothing like the parent of a high schooler.

    avatar

    teresa

    4 Jun 09 at 9:14 am

  3. That was a scary evening…thankfully the graduates got another graduation ceremony. Thanks for putting my sister&I in your article!

    avatar

    Cristina

    18 Jun 09 at 7:09 pm

Leave a Reply

Advertisement
t