This eastern girl was not prepared for the weather that hit the Midwest this week. We were given a 24 hour heads up on Monday, that Tuesday was going to be a stay glued to your TV, weather alert radio, internet radar (in my case all 3) kind of day. I knew that there is a difference between a tornado watch and a warning.
A watch, being just that. Watch, wait and see what happens. Stay alert, but go about your normal business. In my case that was trying to get things done, but found myself going to the live radar on my computer screen every 5 seconds. Over the course of 3 hours it went from nothing to a major something pretty darn quick. That is when they issued a
A warning means seek shelter. Don’t pass go, go to your nearest shelter immediately.
At this point the storms directly in our path were at least 1 hour away, according to every weather source I had going. We decided to head to the In Laws to check on them. Everyone was good, and did not seem too worried about tornadoes. (I on the other hand was very concerned) A few moments later, two things happened simultaneously that scared the @#!* out of me. Several tornadoes were touching down, one of which was only about 30 minutes away, and heading, at a very rapid speed, right for us. And then I heard them. The tornado sirens. They were loud. They sent chills over my entire body. I had heard them before, but not like this.
Every weekend at 12:00 pm the sirens are tested, at a low level. Sometimes I don’t even notice when they are going off. This time, I noticed. We decided at this point that we were going to head home, 2 miles away, so we could be close to our neighbor, who kindly offered to share her brand new storm cellar with us, and several other neighbors. I was ready to head in there the minute we got home. The other half of WE (TOHOW) was a hell of a lot calmer than I was, as he grew up dealing with this crazy weather. He did not want to sit in a hot shelter for an hour. Then it started hailing. Hard. The sky took on the color of pea soup, and I looked at him and said well, then you can come when you are ready. He changed his shoes and met us across the street.
We had a radio with us so we could track the storm, and TOHOW had his laptop. Our neighbor who is about 80, did not seem fazed at all by the fast approaching super cell. She calmly sat next to me in the shelter, and did not say a word. I asked her is she was ok about 10 times, but I think I was just trying to reassure myself, because her response was always “Oh yes, I’m fine”. My other neighbor and her husband were there as well. Of course the men were not in the shelter with us yet. They were in the house watching through the big front windows. All of a sudden TOHOW and the other guy came rushing into the garage and got in the shelter. “Its coming, I can’t even see our house” TOWHOW said. And then the noise outside became so loud we could not hear each other. I thought for sure the house was going to be whisked away, and not in the nice orderly fashion like in the Wizard Of Oz. This lasted about 5 minutes. And then silence. Not a peep. Not a rustle. Just silence. We all looked at each other, and slowly made our way out of the shelter. Opened the garage door to find, sunshine.
Yes the sun was shining in all its glory. Trees were down, the road was littered with branches, and a million leaves. There was hail all over the place. The houses were all still there. The tornadoes had missed us. Unfortunately others were not lucky. Many homes were destroyed. People are missing. People lost their lives. And for this reason, I will never underestimate the weather. Ever. Even if that means spending an hour or more being hot, sweaty, cramped and claustrophobic.
And right now, I am going to make our sweet,generous,calm neighbor a pie.
When I was young my parents used to take my sister and I on Sunday drives. I did not always want to go. I deemed these mini road trips boring. With nothing to do but look at the scenery that passed by, and endure listening to my sister sing, loudly and completely out of tune, because SHE had a Walkman.
I would not trade those Sundays for the world.
And now that I am a mother, I love packing up the kids for a Sunday (or any day) drive adventure. They are usually happy to go, because they never know what we will see or where we will end up.
This past Sunday we decided to head east, since there was a massive storm system building,(the other half of We has a weather obsession) with some of the most intense cloud formations I have ever seen. We did not know at the time that we were seeing the same storm front that was hitting Joplin MO with an intense F-4 tornado.