One of our local weather guys made this statement of the obvious last night in reference to the large hailstones that were falling throughout the broadcast area. Roostler and I had a good laugh because at that point we had already been hit. Not by any hailstones –our neighborhood was spared this threat– but by the two storm systems that converged to induce panic across the air waves and in the thousands of households affected.
Generally, I don’t do well with storms. Especially the kind of storms that frequent the part of the country where I live. Every year, the aptly named Tornado Alley sees the most tornadoes in the world. Though I have yet to actually witness one myself, I have had a few close calls over the years. Last night was one such call.
Most people who live in Tornado Alley know what to look for. A towering cloud shaped like an anvil is not a good sign. As Roostler and I were driving around town in the early evening, we saw two such clouds, one on either side of us. In the few minutes we were out, we witnessed the one to the south expanding toward us, and we knew we were in trouble. Before we got home, I commented that the two storm clouds seemed to be expanding toward each other. In fact, it appeared that the top edges of the clouds were meeting just above our heads. When we got home, we checked the weather, and sure enough, the two systems were heading straight for each other and us.
The weather report warned of hailstones the size of baseballs. Roostler sprung into action and began clearing out a space in our one-car garage (which normally serves as a large storage room) to park the car. I stayed inside with Early Bird and tried not to panic. I didn’t succeed.
Just as Roostler was finishing up with the car, all hell seemed to break loose. The weather guy, who was talking about upper level circulation, ducked his head as a loud roar could suddenly be heard over his report. I’m not sure if it was a barrage of hail or wind, but at the same moment, the tornado siren a block away from our house began wailing. I ran out onto the porch yelling for Roostler to come and get in the shelter. He took his time in doing so. This, of course, gave me more reason to run around like a chicken with its head cut off.
I grabbed Early Bird and ran for the flashlight as Roostler went out to the back of the house to open the door to the shelter. With no shoes on, belly sticking out, and a toddler on my hip, I must have been a sight. As I got down into the shelter, I was wishing I had gotten some shoes because the floor was both damp and dirty. Still, I settled into a chair with Early Bird on my lap as Roostler dragged the dog down there with us. Then, he headed back up the stairs.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I’ve got to get the radio,” he replied.
“Well, hurry!” I yelled over the siren.
He came back a few minutes later with the radio and tuned it into the weather report. Then, he went back up the stairs.
“What are you doing now?”
“I have to get the extension cord.”
What? There is a possible tornado headed our way, and he needs to get the extension cord?
Another few minutes later, he came back with the extension cord and a lamp from our living room. What on earth did we need the lamp for? Could we not survive with the light of the flashlight until the storm passed?
At this point, Early Bird took advantage of her father’s desire to make us more comfortable.
“I ont cur,” she said. (Translation: “I want color.”)
Guess who went to get a coloring book and crayons.
All this time, Early Bird and I are sitting down in the shelter with the door above us open, and all I can think about is that scene from Where the Heart Is when Novalee is struggling to get the door shut as the tornado is passing over and her daughter wanders over to the stairs and gets sucked up into her mother’s arms. I realize this is the stuff of Hollywood, but I did not want the scene (no matter how contrived) played out in real life. Sadly, just a year ago, a mother in a town not far from us lost two of her children when her house was hit by an EF5. One of them was Early Bird’s age.
Roostler finally returned to the shelter and settled in with us. He stayed put for a few minutes until he thought he heard someone knocking on the door. Apparently during one of his trips back to the house, he had told our next door neighbor that he could join us if he needed to. So back up the stairs my dear one went. No one was there, but he decided to maintain his post at the top of the stairs with the door once again open to keep an eye on the situation. Meanwhile, Early Bird started getting squirmy, the dog began to get restless, and I tried to keep breathing as the sirens continued to wail.
In the end, there was a tornado that touched down briefly but dissipated quickly, and by the time that part of the storm got close to us, it was no longer an imminent threat. The radio station resumed its normal broadcast, and the sirens soon stopped. Early Bird and I emerged from the shelter and back into the house, where I got her ready for bed. Roostler dragged the dog up the stairs and into her kennel for the night. I checked in with my ex to make sure he and Omelette were okay and then raided the cupboard for some cookies. In what might be considered an understatement, I admitted to Roostler that I don’t do well with storms.
He simply looked at me and said, “I noticed.”