Today we had a tornado warning. Yes, mid-south in January. Aren’t we supposed to be in the middle of winter? I am endlessly fascinated by storms. Having lived through a tornado that hit my house, you would think I’d be the exact opposite. Instead it fed into my fascination with all things weather and how powerless we are to it.
I’d like to think it was my continuous research on weather that saved mine and my daughter’s life the day the tornado hit. There was no warning at all and we were playing in our above ground pool. Nat was a baby, not even a year yet and she loved floating in the water. It was not storming, the sky was blue and it was a typical hot southern summer day. It wasn’t until the birds stopped singing did I think something was wrong. It just became eerily still. Not a sound.
I grabbed Nat, wrapped her in a towel and was climbing off the deck to the pool when suddenly there were clouds in my yard. Not ominous clouds, but white fluffy clouds gliding through the yard. I raced toward the house, leaving the sliding glass door open behind me, remembering all those school drills when we had to open windows to create a through draft. I’m not sure how I knew for certain it was a tornado. I just knew as I grabbed pillows off the couch and ran into the spare bedroom closet with my baby just as the tornado hit the house.
I’ve seen all the movies, and Twister was one that most accurately portrayed what it’s like to be in a building as a tornado ravages outside. But what they don’t portray is the whistling of the wind as it tears through the house and sweeps along every board. It does sound like a freight train, and I could hear the boards being ripped from the frame and the roar as pieces of the roof were being thrown asunder. There was creaking and Nat was screaming, not understanding why we were huddled in this small, hot closet with pillows over our head. It sounded like it lasted forever, but it was only moments. Then it was gone. And the stillness and quiet were once again there.
I crawled out of the closet, Nat clinging to my hip and thanked whatever it was that needed to be thanked for sparing us. A wall was missing in the room we were in, pieces of the roof were gone and rain was now pouring into the room. I stumbled out into the living room and there was a tree crashed through the front door. I chose to go out the back sliding glass door and stopped in shock as the pool we had just been playing in was gone. Vanished.
We were lucky. There was some structural damage and the concrete block garage looked as if someone had picked up the upper half and moved it over a foot. Every tree in the yard and there were several, were either gone or on the ground. One of them was propelled onto my car and it dented the hood to the seats and flattened all four tires. The tornado changed my perception of things in my life. It was the catalyst for ending my marriage. I left my highly stressful and demanding job and moved away to raise my daughter.
When I moved back to my hometown, I remembered the endless sirens of Spring. Every storm had the potential to spawn a tornadic cloud. But today, as I videotaped the gray low moving clouds that brought with them the potential for destruction, I shrugged off the danger. I had lived through a tornado. What’s the likelihood I will have to live through another one. Of course this rationale isn’t the most intelligent one, but it does help me sleep securely. At least until the sirens start blaring.
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