A week ago today, I drove across town to have lunch at my mom’s house. While we snacked on grilled cheese sandwiches, my mom and I chatted about baby stuff (I am nearing the end of the second trimester!). I’d heard that it could storm that afternoon, so we turned on the local news as rain began to fall in the backyard.
Within a few seconds of the rain starting, my dad texted us from his office a few blocks away. The message read, “Storm is coming, take shelter.” I read the message but shrugged it off as him being over protective. Typical dad move, right? I’ve lived in this town my entire life and I had never seen a tornado despite hearing all manner of doomsday stories about them. Growing up, tornado drills were a part of the curriculum. When a bad thunderstorm would roll through, our teachers would usher us into the hallways to crouch on our knees with our hands behind our necks to protect ourselves. Always, always, it would be a false alarm.
How could this time be any different?
My mom and I turned up the tv to hear over the rain. I watched the screen closely, waiting for the meteorologist to name our area directly. I thought they could pinpoint where the storm was going ahead of time. (I learned later that the radar they use can only detect a cyclone AFTER it happens.)
Around 2 o’clock, the sound of the rain seemed to double, even triple instantaneously. I realized, this ear-splitting noise wasn’t rain, it was wind. I looked at my mom and said, “We need to get into the basement NOW”. I raced down the stairs, still absently holding the cupcake I had been eating in the kitchen (priorities, people!). In the basement, the wind was so deafening that I thought my mom had left the garage door open. The house rattled and shook as if there was nothing between us and the storm outside. I crouched in the downstairs bathroom, yelling at my mom, “GET DOWN HERE NOW!” She was still upstairs trying to open the front door to keep the house from exploding as the air pressure changed. (Public Service announcement this is an old wives tale with no basis in fact. Don’t do this in a storm.)
The tornado descended so quickly on the neighborhood– I didn’t have much time to think. The only thing occupying my mind was worry for my baby. At 23 weeks, she is still so fragile. While a blow from falling debris might not kill me, it could surely cause damage to this little unborn baby. I just wanted her to be okay.
Within a matter of minutes, the storm came and went.
The twister left a cold stillness in its wake. The temperature dropped at least 10 degrees as it passed. Sirens could be heard in all directions. I emerged from the basement to find the house in disarray after the strong gusts had blown through: ceiling tiles were on the floor, rain had blown through the open windows and papers had flown throughout the house.
It took a few minutes for us to even notice the giant oak that stood 12 feet from the house had fallen. The wind had been so loud that we didn’t even hear or feel the massive tree fall. Easily, it could have crashed through the roof of our house but miraculously, it fell sideways. It took out brick walls of my parent’s terrace and smashed our neighbor’s portapotty (they were doing construction at their house). The tippy-top the tree grazed the neighbor’s house but caused no real damage. If the wind hadn’t blown in that specific direction, my parent’s roof could have been destroyed– or worse.
Roof shingles littered the lawn. The neighbors across the street lost several trees. One hit a deck with a grill on it, causing a gas leak. Another hit a car sitting empty in a driveway. In spite of all the chaos, no one was hurt.
That day taught me to never ignore storm warnings. I had always thought that I would be able to see a tornado coming– like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The heavy rain made it impossible to tell the tornado was coming until it was basically on top of us. I realized how stupid it was to ignore the warnings! If my baby had been born, she could have been in another room sleeping. Imagine if I were not able to get to her in time.
I am beyond thankful that everyone made it out of the storm safety. That experience was one I will never forget and I am happy to have the opportunity to share it with you here.