On May 31st, I experienced my first tornado. The young single girl who put this on her bucket list of things to experience had a slightly different version of what it would be like in her head. In her head, it was much more like being a tornado chaser, where you get to see the twister from a relatively safe distance. It certainly wasn’t the image of kneeling in the laundry room holding onto your terrified two year old while watching the giant 26 year old tree being ripped from the earth. I certainly do NOT need to do that again.
I knew it was coming. After picking up Lina, the nice weather robot broke into my radio and told me I had just enough time to get home, let the dogs out and get settled in before the danger set in. I turned on the TV as soon as I got home and let the local weather people tell me about where the danger was headed. When the first sirens started, we stayed upstairs while Lina ate her cold left over noodles. The danger was still far enough away. There were two spots in the storm where rotation was present. One was expected to hit my area, the other was expected to hit my parents area. I barely remember hearing the second siren, I was too busy listening to the weather man. He said the danger spot was headed towards the street a mile away from my house. But there is also a town of the same name nearby, so I hesitated in going down stairs, waiting for him to clarify. I heard a POP and the power went out for a full second then came back on. That’s when I decided it was time to go downstairs. About 15 seconds later the power went out for good. I quickly told Lina to go down stairs while I ran to get the iPad (to keep Lina entertained) and my phone. Lina had only gone down two steps so I asked her if she wanted me to carry her down. Fortunately she said yes. I quickly scooped her up and ran down the steps. My arms and hands were full, so when my pants started falling down, I was unable to grab them. By the time I reached the laundry room, they were half down my tush. I set Lina down, dropped the iPad on the hamper, set the phone on the washer, pulled up my pants and knelt down to hold my scared baby. We heard a giant crack and we both looked out the tiny plexiglass window as our large tree came crashing down. That’s when I started shaking. I quickly shoved the over full basket of clean clothes out of the room so I could shut the door. My whole body trembled uncontrollably and Lina climbed higher into my lap.
“I scared Mommy, I scared.”
“It’s okay baby, I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”
“You have me?”
“Yeah, I’ve got you baby. I’ll keep you safe.”
“Okay. I’m just gonna watch the rain.”
“Okay, let’s just watch the rain.”
As we held onto each other and my shaking subsided, I quickly grabbed my phone to call Mason. I knew he was on his way home, if the storm hadn’t sped up, he would have been home just before it hit. As soon as he answered I told him “Don’t come home!” But it was too late. He was already in it. He was trying to pull into a do it yourself car wash, but couldn’t see far enough ahead of him to see the entrance. After I got off the phone with him, Lina had relaxed enough to venture from my lap and started playing her fish game on the iPad while I tried to call my parents and sister to make sure they were all okay. But the lines were clogged and that was the last I was able to use my phone until a few hours later when I was able to send out some text messages. Eventually I was able to use Mason’s phone to talk to my sister to find out that the other rotation went south of my parents. They were safe.
It was a few days before I was able to confirm that it was in fact a tornado, and not just severe winds. I got my news in tiny bits from friends and family who held us in their hearts while watching the weather man. While driving around the next day to get drinks for all the people who came to help chop up that tree, there was a distinct path of huge trees that were pulled from the ground, roots and all. The path of the tornado was less than a block away from our home. The tree fell towards the twister, we were definitely in the “suck zone.” If it was that scary being a block away from a mild tornado, I don’t think I need to worry about missing out on the thrill of being a tornado chaser.