Monday, April 25, 2011

Tornados and Wall Clouds

If you own a TV or read the newspaper, I’m sure you’ve heard about the tornadoes that struck St. Louis over the weekend. The first one that hit was south west of my house and the second one, which caused 22 miles of damage, started just north east of us. If the first one had held together, there is a good chance it would have been extremely close to our house.

I’m used to tornado threats, I’ve lived my entire life in the Midwest. With each place I have lived, one thing remains the same. Once the first spring storm hits you start thinking of where you will go if and when a tornado comes close. Many people who grew up in the Midwest are so used to hearing the sirens sound that it doesn’t even phase them anymore. Around here, the sirens that cry tornado are much like the boy who cried wolf. So many people, myself included on occasion, tend to go outside when the alarm sounds. Perhaps not the brightest move, but it lets us know if there is actually something to worry about. Not to mention that storms like this are really cool to watch. This year there is one major difference, I have a baby to think about.

The plan in our house is for me to grab Lina and her diaper bag and head down stairs while Mason corrals the three dogs and all six of us squeeze into the tiny laundry room. Except this time, Mason wasn’t home. The first time the alarms went off, the first tornado had touched down nearby, so I focused on just getting the dogs downstairs.

Damage to the East of us.

The second time the alarms went off, I was feeding Elina, because storm or not, that girl likes to eat. So I did the typical Midwesterner thing and stuck my head out the back door and decided it wasn’t going to hit us. Shortly after that, I heard an alarm in the distance when the second tornado touched down. The weatherman was stationed in that area and sent his fellow workers to the basement. He promised to keep talking to us if he had to get under a desk. Now that is commitment. Perhaps a normal person would say hey I’m gonna go downstairs for a moment, please keep your eyes on this here map. I don’t have anything new to say anyway so you won’t miss a thing. That would be the highlight of my story, Mason’s story is much better though.

After Lina’s dinner we were back in the living room tracking the storm with our weatherman who was poised and ready to jump under the desk. A reported tornado (it was later reduced to a wall cloud) was headed down a street not far from our house and the road I expected Mason would be using to get home. So I called to see where he was. If he hadn’t left yet, I was going to make sure he didn’t leave until it was safe. Guess where he was… the worst possible place he could be at that moment. He told me he was just blown into a different lane before I called and we hung up so he could focus on driving since there was nowhere to pull over at that moment. The wind continued to push his truck around the highway, from one lane to the next and back again eventually pushing him into the wall. Fortunately the wall only pushed his mirror in and he ended up back in the lane he started in once the winds let up.

Actual wall cloud that Mason drove through.
We were lucky.

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