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How My Laptop Survived a Tornado (Or, Buy a Toshiba Satellite C655)

Tropical Storm Debby recently made my acquaintance at my humble home here in South Florida. The storm itself was a non-starter, but apparently the outer strands of it spawned a series of tornadoes across Florida last Sunday. While I am pretty handy with a computer, when it comes to un-nerd-related topics I am oblivious, and on Sunday I was unaware of Debby or the tornado warning that had been issued. It was sunny outside that day - if I had heard something I would have written it off as a false alarm anyway. 

My home is on a lake and surrounded by trees. My favorite part of the house is the expansive back porch. The porch is screened and runs the entire length of the house - we've installed a hammock whose awesomeness cannot be translated into English as well as a large hand crafted wooden table. I tend to do my drinking in the hammock while whittling away the hours with a great view of the lake. The table is for when I actually need to get some work done or eat something. Between the two I spend more time on the porch then in the house as befits any Southern gentleman. 

So it was on Sunday I was doing some research on the native data deduplication capabilities that are included in Windows Server 2012 (a topic that will most certainly be explained more here soon), and doing so at the foot of my large wooden table on my screened-in porch with my Toshiba Satellite C655. 
Behold, the Facebook Machine (also includes pornography)
It started drizzling, but a fresh rain only enhances the porch experience under normal circumstances. The slight rain continued, but was not enough to scare off my intrepid and adopted cat BB, so no big deal, I thought (What the initials stand for has been the subject of much debate over the years. The only answer I am aware of that is not NSFW is Big Boy).

The rain continued and started to pick up. The wind started to send the rain sideways through the screen a bit. The screens run the entire porch except the connection with the house, so three walls are entirely screened with a a stone ledge on the bottom that runs about waist high. Because BB spends most of his time on the ledge under the screens, this gave him a face full of water and sent him scurrying inside. What does he know, I thought. His brain is the size of a walnut. I'm staying outside.

Moments after I had concluded this conversation with myself, it started. There was a sound like a freight train engine, only louder, close to the decibel range of gunshots. This wasn't just thunder - it didnt stop after a moment and it was much louder than anything I've ever heard (and as a Florida native, this isn't my first time dealing with bad weather). I decided it was time to go inside, and closed my laptop while I started to stand up. 

A wall of water came through the screens. A solid wall from top to bottom - there was so much water it could not have just been rain. Later I would examine the wreckage and reason that the tornado must have touched down on the lake, causing a tidal-wave effect (the lake shore is about 20 feet from my house). At the time I had no opportunity to think. The water somehow came straight through all three walls at the same time. I had my hands on my laptop when it hit me. The force knocked me to the floor and back a few feet, sliding me across the stone floor and leaving me stunned for a moment. I lost my grip on the laptop, and it hit the ground with as much force as I did, on its corner, leaving its top somewhat ajar and not completely shut. 

My first thought, of course, was - Not my computer damn it - and I grabbed the laptop, hugging it to my chest after crawling underneath my giant table. The wind had shut the door to the house behind me and so I could not get inside without standing up and using the knob. While the tidal wave was over, it had ripped the screens out of the walls. The wind remained, and with such force that small objects were being picked up and tossed around as if by a ghost. The wind was so strong, in fact, that standing up was impossible. Even if I was able to make it to my feet somehow, I would have been sent sliding across the floor, or worse, while I struggled with the knob one of the flying objects might have hit me in the head. I doubted I would even be able to get it open with that much force acting against me. I'm an engineer. We're not known for upper body strength.

So for what must have been a minute or two but seemed like an eternity, I stayed underneath the table in a near fetal position, gripping my computer as we were both soaked with water, and wondered what sort of grizzly death this would result in. Would I be sucked out by the storm like Dorothy? Would a cinder block be blown through and crack my skull? There is a small area where the washer and dryer are kept near the porch - would the storm sever one of the high voltage lines connected to them, electrocuting me? 

This was not the relaxing time I had come to expect to be provided by my porch. 

Suddenly the wind shifted directions. Now everything that wasnt bolted down was being sucked out of the porch; glasses, ash tray, potted plants. The wind change also resulted in the door to the house being thrown open. This is my chance to save the computer, I thought. There is no way it is bootable after this but I can probably salvage the drive. 

It was then that I perfectly executed a tuck and roll procedure as I was trained to at boot camp.

Haha, no that is not entirely true. I pain stakingly crawled to the door like a terrified infant. I just narrowly made it through before the winds changed again and slammed the door shut behind me. At that point I was able to get back to my feet and waited out the rest of the storm in my bathroom with BB.

Hours later the storm abated, and I walked outside, blinking in the now stark sunlight after hiding in darkness in the bathroom, to take an inventory of what was left of my home. Among the damage was a 30 foot tall tree that was snapped in half and was conveniently placed on top of the house while blocking the front door entirely.

No big whoop
A table and bench set made of solid concrete that sits between my house and the lake had been split into pieces after the storm smashed the bench and table into each other. A patio umbrella was turned inside out and was left tangled in my clothesline. 

The C655 laughes at your weakness, concrete
I went back inside to inspect the final casualty, my Toshiba Satellite C655. I grabbed a rag and toweled off what remained of the water that had knocked it onto the stone floor of my patio. I figured I would boot it up, in the hopes the inevitable post error would give me some indication of what would not be salvageable.

I hit the power button and ... nothing. A black screen. Great, there may not be anything left worth taking. I turned the computer around to get a look at what size screwdriver I would need to look inside when I noticed the battery was partially unseated. So I plugged it back in and attempted to boot again, fully expecting the same lack of response. 

Thats when the miracle happened. The Toshiba Satellite C655 booted perfectly, I was prompted to select whether to boot into safety mode, opted not to and Windows loaded perfectly. All of my data survived nature's attempt to get me to start keeping backups. 

To recap - this computer was thrown against a solid stone floor from a height of four feet. It was covered in water from a mini tidal wave. It was outside during a tornado that smashed concrete. And it survived. It didn't just survive - it was completely unharmed, not even a noticeable scratch where it hit the ground. I have had laptops that did not survive spilled cups of coffee that cost twice what I paid for the C655.

So +1 for you Toshiba, for building mankind's first Tornado proof laptop under $500.