Monday night was one of the scariest weather nights of my life. I would say the scariest, however, there was one that mirrored it when I was a teenager.
My dad, sister and I always lived in apartments. (I never lived in a house until my ex husband and I bought ours a few years into our marriage.)
One night, in the fourth apartment I remember living in, there was a tornado warning in my small hometown. As any good parent does, the sirens start and my dad rushed outside to “check things out.” This is a long held belief among parents… that having a child provides you a superhero power in amateur meteorology.
My dad and several other neighbors, with the same idea, see a very dark cloud wall within view… not a good weather sign.
The quiet roar of unsettled panic crept in in. The parents looked at each other and then at their kids and had no idea what to do. All the apartments were on one floor and none would be able to withstand a impending twister.
So the amateur meteorologists (and now evacuation specialists) came up with a plan. All of the families would run into the water drain that was close to the apartment complex located in a ditch. It was underground, cement and it could fit all of us…if we hunched down.
One by one, like miners into a cave, we loaded into the drain pipe. We walked until the last person was far from the edge. It was wet, muddy and but a few quick-grab flashlights… dark.
This idea really could have been brilliant… genius in fact… except one thing.
The precursor to most storms that create tornadoes is… you guessed it…
Yes! The sound of rain pour deafened the nervously quiet drain. First, just a few drops from cracks in the pipe… then the bottoms of our shoes were covered. Then our tops of our laces and quickly to our bent over knees.
My dad realized the speed in which the water is rising and yelled “everyone out!”
Then like that, each neighbor, parent, and kid began to quick hunch out of the pipe. My sister, who couldn’t handle stressful situations like these, passed out right next to me.
“Dad! Jen passed out!” I yelled.
I had to drag her, while hunched, pushing people to move. The water continued to rise. The drain pipe was doing the job the city commissioner and planned for it to do.
My sister came to just about the time of me seeing some pipe light. As you can probably guess we were able to all get out okay. The dark wall never formed into a twister and the most lasting thing about that night was the memory.
Now on to Monday night, it started out as a pretty quiet day. I had the day off of work and without parenting duties just did laundry and relaxed!
I was pleasantly surprised when I began to feel sleepy at 9:30. I’m such a night owl, I thought this would be the perfect way to start a short week… with good sleep!
All of a sudden, I woke up to the sound of rain and feeling of my dogs pushing at my feet. I opened my eyes quickly and could feel in my gut this wasn’t a normal storm. Lightning lit up my room and there was a weird pattern to the sound of the wind and rain. To say it was eerie would be an understatement.
I grabbed my phone and read the “Tornado Warning” text. Now, to be fair we get these quite a lot in the Spring. But again this time I was scared. I opened Facebook (my source of news) and went to the local news affiliate, who was live streaming coverage of the storm.
Within a minute, I was able to discern not only was this warning for my county, it was heading towards my neighborhood. I instantly called to check on my kid. I was able to figure out she was safe.
I grabbed a blanket and my phone and ran into my bedroom closet. I remembered a spider I had seen in there a couple days earlier and turned right around. If I was going to have to hunker down I wasn’t going to risk it being next to a spider. I was scared but not stupid.
I moved to the pantry I store all my extra supplies in. Two of my dogs following close behind. I find a spot, kneel down and put the blanket over my head. My dogs jumping over me the entire time. The sounds got louder, much louder and there was the loudest boom. I knew something went down nearby.
I nervously looked up at the items on my shelves in the pantry.
“Great! I’m going to be buried under the enormous number of paper towel rolls and Lysol wipe containers I had hoarded. All of the months I forgot to cancel my subscribe and save on Amazon..”
“Whew I’m glad I hired a cleaning lady… so if I do die under these they will at least think I’ve used them at some point.”
The light then flickered, another loud bang and darkness. My power was out. I was alone and the storm had quieted. I once again (and too many times to not be annoying) called my kid. She was fine and safe.
My dad, sister and mom called throughout the short time in the pantry as well. I wish I could give a full timeline but it was short calls and broken up service.
My dad eventually laid his phone by the tv so I could hear updates for myself. My internet service was out. I’m sure an AT&T tower was one of the loud bangs I heard.
After I was fully in the clear I tried to look outside for damage. The night was the darkest I have ever seen in my life. Thick clouds covered any moonlight and power was out for miles. It was dark and I was alone.
That night I laid awake for hours. I couldn’t play on my phone as I didn’t want it to die but also very slow internet. I eventually fell asleep.
When I woke up the next morning I had no idea the scope of the damage outside. I was able to pull up one article that said all the major roads around me were closed. It was then that I also read the word tornado. An actual tornado.
A few hours later and on my works WiFi I realized the entirety of the scope of the destruction. After all was said and done there were 14 total Tornadoes in our region that night. One of which was less than a mile from my home.
I have heard stories, seen photos and drove past the destruction in my neighborhood. However, one thing that has been louder than the chaos has been the willingness of the community to help. Money, goods and time spent helping one another.
My sister (the one that passed out in the chaos of the storm as a teen) stood up as an adult and was able to gather a truck full of supplies that she delivered today to a local Red Cross. She and her family prayed on where to make the delivery and found the place she was needed the most.
Part of my contribution included the endless bounty of paper towels, toilet paper and Lysol wipes that threatened my life just days before. I thought it was a perfect homage to my time in the pantry.
If you want to help please visit one of the links below: