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Archive for May, 2011

Tornado in My Neighborhood (part one)

It was a typical lazy Sunday. The previous day, we had gone to La Crosse, Wisconsin to visit with some college friends and see a show they were putting on at their community theater. We got home that night and stayed up kind of late. We slept in on Sunday and got up around 11:00 a.m., I think. We grabbed some fast food and awaited the arrival of a couple of Liza’s college friends from South Dakota who were in town and headed over for a visit. I munched on my chalupa and checked Facebook. I got an alert from a weather app that our area was in a tornado watch. “Strange,” I thought, since it didn’t look like tornado weather. I announced this weather watch to Liza, who was feeding Josiah in the other room. “That figures.”

Sometime around 2:00, Hannah and Eric pulled up and I wrangled the dogs into the bedroom. They don’t like visitors, you see, so they need to be in the other room. Just as our friends walked up our front stairs, we heard the neighborhood tornado sirens begin to sound. I looked at the sky again as we made our greetings, thinking that it just looked overcast outside. The thing is, we have heard the sirens go off in our area countless times. And when we look at the weather reports, the tornadoes are never in our area. Maybe my first clue this time should have been when I attempted to turn on the local weather and my television told me that DirecTV could not find a signal. The sirens continued to blare.

Hannah and Liza continued to chat and coo over Josiah – Hannah and Eric hadn’t met him yet. Eric and I both stepped outside to survey the weather situation. The sirens continued, but I didn’t think there was any severity near us at all. The rain had stopped, as had the breeze. It was totally calm. Liza popped her head out the door to ask what we were finding out. “Nothing,” I said. “It must not be around here.”

Then we heard it.

I mean, we heard “it.” The tornado. It was a sound I had never heard before, and a sound that I will be fine never hearing again. They always say that it sounds like a freight train. They’re right, mostly. Picture a freight train that is about three times the size of a normal train and you might be getting close. Add in the sounds of fear and destruction, whatever they sound like. If the word “ominous” had a sound, you could layer that in as well. That sound won’t leave me any time soon.

Eric heard it, too. He and I looked at each other. I looked to Liza. “Downstairs. Now.”

As I quickly rushed up the porch steps and into the house, in a calm but agitated state, I uttered, “There’s a tornado in our [expletive] neighborhood.” Liza and Hannah had Josiah and the baby puppy, and Eric headed downstairs as well. I ran to the bedroom and picked up our two girl dogs, one under each arm and had Wicket follow me to the basement. Liza went back upstairs to grab something quickly, I’m not sure what, and on her way back down the power flickered and failed. Through the basement windows we could see the sky turn green. We all just stood around and commented on the strange welcoming our visitors received. All the while, the wind whipped outside and rattled our basement windows.

I wandered over to the staircase, and I heard what sounded like a child screaming. I was terrified to my very soul. I booked it upstairs and to the front door, which I whipped open. If there was a child outside in this storm, I was going to get that child to safety. I peered outside and couldn’t see much of anything due to the density of the perfectly horizontal rain. Amongst it, I saw a greenish blur zip past the yard. I assume it was a tree branch. But it was fast. And it, too, was horizontal. And that rumble. That terrible roar. I opened the screen door to see through the watery haze on the glass to try to determine if a child indeed needed help. It was a false alarm, thankfully. What I was hearing was the stormy winds whistling through our windows, creating a high pitched, blood-curdling scream. I headed back downstairs, pronto. On the way, I grabbed my computer. Because honestly, my life is on that thing, and I rejoined my family and our visitors.

During the time that I was gone upstairs, Liza had been having text conversations with both her mother and our friend Renae. Renae told us that according to the television, there was a touchdown at Logan and 29th. We live at Logan and 37th. The sirens wound down and we went upstairs to see what was up. Within two minutes we heard emergency vehicle sirens. Eric and I went and stood in the middle of the street and peered south, toward where we had heard the tornado minutes earlier. We couldn’t see anything, but there was a hill between our house and where we had heard everything had happened. Then the sirens blew again. We went back down and then came back up a few minutes later when they subsided. We found more downed leaves and branches, but nothing too notable at all. The rain was subsiding, but a small deluge of water created an impromptu waterfall on our tall front-yard stairway.

There were more and more emergency vehicle sirens to the south. And more and more commotion coming from a few blocks in that direction. We all weighed the options. Should Eric and I head down there? On one hand if people needed help, we are two able-bodied people who would like to help if needed. On the other hand, we may get in the way of the professionals trained in such things. We erred on the side of good deeds, got in my van and headed south on North Logan. What we found was humbling and harrowing.

(Part two to follow)