Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Twisters I have known

I live in Tornado Alley so a tornado isn't an unusual event. When I was a child, a nearby town was decimated by a tornado and I remember going there afterward to help with cleanup. And I was caught in a couple when I was in college. I still remember driving home and looking to my left, seeing a twister two fields over as it ambled its way across the countryside.
The most memorable one in recent years was ten years ago. My father had just died, and we'd had terrible hail storms off and on for a week or more. On the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, a big storm came up at about ten at night. The neighbors across the street were out of town and their teenage kids were having a party (they were always pretty circumspect about these parties, but we often had a street full of cars and the occasional guy or girl wandering around. Luckily we live on a quiet dead-end street, so no problem).
The storm came up and DH and I headed for the basement with the cats. We have one room with no windows (just those little well windows near the ceiling), so we huddled in there while the storm raged. Power went off, of course, so we used flashlights and candles. I'd brought the bottle of wine with us, so it wasn't a chore to be there. 8)
When we emerged thirty minutes later, our back yard was a mess -- a white pine had snapped off and left about 20 feet of its top in the yard, several saplings were uprooted, and the pond (which we were just digging at the time) was full of water (a pity because we didn't have the liner in yet. Mucky).
Checking the front, we found power lines down, trees down, and about 30 kids stranded on our street because they couldn't get out. A part of our big maple up front had snapped off and dimpled the house -- not crushing the roof but just crimping the gutter and part of the roofline.
The neighbor kids came over to check on us and Ian, the youngest (he was probably 18 at the time) was looking for his mom's cats, who had come over to our house to escape the party. The cats were safe in our garage (they always hid out there when the neighbor kids had a party), and that was all Ian cared about. As he said, "mom would kill me if anything happened to her cats."
We handed out flashlights, candles, and blankets and told everybody to bunk down for the night -- we weren't going anywhere. The next morning I came out at about 6 a.m. to find a kid sitting on a car across the street, among the branches of a tree that had fallen on it. He was on his cell phone, chatting with his Mom, who'd called all the other parents the previous night to let them know where their kids were. This guy and I got out the chain saws and started working on the branches. Pretty soon other kids (and DH and neighbors) straggled out and we started a massive cleanup. By the time the city trucks came through, the street was mostly clear.
The power came back on in mid-afternoon and life returned to normal. It was more of an inconvenience than a tragedy, but I remember that spring a lot of bad things happened: Dad died, we had a HUGE hail storm that broke windows and ruined cars, then we had the tornado. I have a firm belief in the power of Three, and the tornado ended that run of bad luck.
Knock on wood: haven't had one since, although we've had some memorable wind storms which took out trees. I'm hoping I can get through this tornado season unscathed.

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