Once upon a time I had a healthy respect for tornadoes. In childhood we spent many an hour in my grandmother’s cellar, waiting storms out. My family also, from time to time, drove out to watch funnel clouds that were a safe distance away. We would check out nearby places torn to bits by tornadoes. It’s wild want twisters can do. Drive blades of grass into trees, gut a house while two homes on either side are untouched, pick up livestock (or people) and set them down a mile away unharmed.
I’ve seen horse trailers in trees, round bales of hay weighing over a ton pitched around like tumbleweeds, metal wrapped around trees, the list goes on and on.
Then there was the night I had to ride one out in my mobile home. My mom and I had gone to bed in a thunderstorm watch. At the time I didn’t get nervous with the promise of storms, and I wasn’t worried. Around midnight I awoke with an eerie feeling. I couldn’t pin it down and I got up and looked out my bedroom window. A bit of thunder and lightning, the dogwood tree outside was swaying a bit with the wind, nothing too dramatic. Yet, I couldn’t shake the bad feeling as I watched the wind stop completely and all fell still.
Suddenly BOOM the tree flattened to the ground, and I heard the roar barreling down on us like a freight train—literally happened in the blink of an eye.
Terrified, I ran to wake my mom. She jumped out of bed and we dashed to the front door, hoping to make it across the road to our neighbors who have a basement. The front door wouldn’t budge, thanks to suction from the tornado, even though we both tried, which probably saved us in the end.
With no other choice we ran to the bathroom and climbed into the bathtub. We had to shout to be heard over the horrendous howl of wind. The mobile home popped and cracked while the floor bucked (the place is tied down by logging chains attached to large cement pillars driven in the ground.) I expected the whole place to blow apart any second. My mom was sobbing, but I think I was overwhelmed to the point it didn’t feel real. How could I possibly have gotten stuck in a mobile home in the middle of a tornado? They tell people to get in ditches as a last resort, just don’t stay in mobile homes.
It seemed to last forever, but honestly I’d say maybe only a couple of minutes, before the roar moved on. By some miracle the mobile home held together. When we came out of the bathroom we found the front door had blown open and the living room was soaked. Outside, our fruit trees were twisted off, limbs and trees were down here and there. Our neighbors looked barely touched with only a few limbs down. The twister had been small, a zero or one, with wind speeds around 100+ mph. Lucky us!
Now I’m terrified of bad weather, particularly wind. My healthy respect has turned into a full on phobia, but can you blame me? Even today, tornadoes are elusive. We didn’t even have a thunderstorm warning that night. The huge F-5 Joplin, Mo, tornado that wreaked havoc with 300+ mph winds remained invisible to radar in the beginning. They didn’t know about it until it started ripping apart their hospital like a piñata.
If you live in Tornado Alley (or thinking of moving here) PLEASE don’t take our weather lightly! Keep an eye on the sky and take watches/warnings seriously.