Monday, May 23, 2011

Waiting for the rainbows

When I was little I was terrified of storms. If I wasn’t already sleeping in my mom’s bed (I was a mama’s girl through and through), you could bet your bottom dollar I’d be there before the first clap of thunder finished shaking the earth around us. More than the thunder and lightning, though, I was afraid of the storms producing tornadoes.

{Via Sun Sentinel}
As I got older, I tried to be a little less fearful and a tiny bit stronger (hah, like that actually worked). When I was about 9, we were living in an apartment building in a suburb just south of St. Paul. Every time the news predicted stormy weather, I’d stare out the window next to my bed and convince myself that the cloud pattern in the distance—despite being flush with a bright blue sky—showed the early stages of rotation.

Growing up in the “city,” we always felt a bit invincible, as though tornadoes only hit the suburbs (which is probably why living in that suburb when I was 9 made me even more scared). It certainly feels that way sometimes, but the truth is, tornadoes can form anywhere they please.

The night before my 8th grade graduation (I won’t even tell you how many years ago that was), our feelings of invincibility were shattered.

A close friend of mine was having a graduation party for our entire grade—some 80 kids. As we danced the night away and reveled in how old we were becoming (remind me to tell my kids that 14 is not what you think it is), the storm clouds began to roll in. By the time parents arrived to take us all home, it was downpouring.

My best friend and his parents drove me home. The normally 10-minute ride was lengthened by blinding rain and eventually, the sound of the emergency sirens. When we got to my house, I invited them in to wait out the storm, but they insisted they’d be fine. Most of us were used to the sirens sounding in the wake of severe thunderstorms, and we thought nothing more of it.

Not even 5 minutes later I was talking to my mom in our living room, debating whether we should wake my young brother and sister and take them to the basement. Suddenly, we could feel the pressure build up in the atmosphere. Outside, a sound not unlike the freight train sounds they often associate with tornadoes began to ring out.

We rushed to the bedrooms, plucked my siblings from their beds, and made it to the basement just in time for the power to go out and the storm to intensify. When it had finally passed, I reached for the one phone that still worked with the power out and began dialing Chad’s house. It took me nearly a half hour, but they finally answered. The storm had gotten so bad, they couldn’t see in front of them and needed to pull over. Luckily, they were safe and no one was hurt.

While our house was untouched, we heard dozens of emergency vehicles outside that were clear indications of some form of destruction not far from our house. Sure enough, by the time we were able to venture out into the daylight the next morning, it hit home. It had literally hit home.

Two blocks south of us, houses were ripped apart. One house was missing its entire roof. Trees were down everywhere. All of us remained without power. There was much debate about whether what hit our neighborhood that night was a tornado or straight line winds, but no matter what label you put on it, it showed us that storms know no boundaries, no city limits.

It took some time but the houses around us were rebuilt. New trees were planted. The local golf course underwent a complete makeover. We were lucky. This storm came nowhere close to the level of force that so many storms you hear about carry.

So while I’m quite a bit older these days, I still get a little tense when the sirens sound. Last night was no different. Sean and I sat at home and watched the gray, but dry sky outside as the sirens and the TV weatherman warned of impending doom. This time, it didn’t come anywhere near us, but it did hit the northern part of Minneapolis (the largest city in Minnesota, not 10 miles from us). Once again, Mother Nature proved that there are no limits, and no rhyme or reason, to these horrible storms. I guess I don't feel so bad for being scared after all.

(Via Minnesota Public Radio}
Minnesota was only 1 of many areas affected by storms this weekend (and in recent weeks). I'm blown away by the tragedy of it. The photos of the destruction in Joplin, MO take my breath away. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone across the country who is dealing with the aftermath of devastating storms this spring. 

1 comment:

  1. I am glad to hear I am not the only one who is terrified of tornadoes and summer storms--growing in California, we did not have tornadoes and I think that might account for some of my uneasiness with storms in general. There have been many nights over the last two years that I have taken Woods downstairs in his cat carrier and waited until the coast was clear :(