Thursday, February 07, 2008

we're ok.

We had some weather around here on Tuesday. Here's a news clip about it. We're very lucky, but at least 55 people, and hundreds more injured, were not. Many buildings, farm animals, homes, and other facilities were destroyed.

Weather is an odd thing. No matter where you live, you think you've experienced something bad and have a hard time relating to weather you haven't experienced. On the east coast, I'd encountered thunder storms, snow storms, and hurricanes. Nothing prepared me for how tornadoes worked except for The Wizard of Oz. So, what happens?

If it's day time, the wind picks up and the sky darkens and become a horrible shade of green and gray. It sometimes rains. If you're listening to the radio or have a weather alarm, it may give you an alert that there's a thunder storm warning or a tornado watch. A warning means that there IS a storm or tornado, it's on its way. A watch means conditions are ripe for a tornado, but one hasn't happened yet.

Up at the university, there are alert systems called a "Cow" and "Calf" system. The students and faculty know the drill of getting into lower hallways and basements when the calves sound the alarm. (no idea why they are called this, I think it's an acronym.) At home, I have a weather bug alarm on my computer that makes cricket sounds. I listen for those, and I watch my dogs. Their agitation means a storm is on the way.

What about the sirens? We have sirens, but they are hard to hear during a storm. There's a howling wind, a lot of rain, and often police and ambulance sirens are going continuously as they rush to areas with downed trees, powerlines, or other dangers. If you live in a rural area, there's no siren to warn you, and unless you've worked to get the weather alerts sent to you automatically and you still have electricity, you might not get warning. Weather reports in rural areas aren't always very good, even when they do happen...watching your animals' reactions can sometimes be a surer prediction.

Tornadoes happen fast. When a tornado warning is issued, the instructions are to "Git in your basement or cellar, git under a work bench or other piece of equipment. TAKE SHELTER." The radio announcers lose their radio voices and their real accents come through. The panic can be heard through the airwaves, and on the local station, they start praying on air.

We've had two storms in the last week or so. A week ago, we had a storm with big winds that took down mature trees, broke windows and ripped up roofs and chimneys. That one did not make the national news. When I told my family we were ok, they hadn't heard of the storm. This time, we were just lucky. It was a long sleepless night with serious wind, rain, sirens, and waking up several times to check the weather alerts, but we didn't even make it down to the basement because I think we missed the warning that was issued past midnight. Only a half hour to an hour from us, lots of people died, trailers and homes were destroyed, a high school lost its roof, lots of farm animals perished.

A tornado is a localized thing. Some folks we know from Kansas laugh and say they watch them on their porch--if it is really headed your way, there isn't much you can do. When one strikes, it's sudden. There's no telling how long the funnel cloud will touch down, or who it will claim.

On Wednesday morning, there were big winds, the temperature dropped and the sky was dark. An older man on the street laughed and said he'd said his prayers and gone to sleep--no use worrying at his age. Everyone went to work Wednesday morning. People in areas hit spent the day digging out and helping their neighbors. By last night, all of us were so tired, even if nothing had happened to us but a sleepless stormy night. I went to the drugstore, and waited in line for a prescription. The pharmacy lady said, "I'm sorry, I don't know if I'm coming or going, I'm so tired."

I spoke up. "That's ok. We're all worn out about now; we've been through the same storm, we need to be kind to each other." The pharmacist lady was grateful for our muted response, our patience. We're all grateful it's over. This isn't like a snow storm; there were few cancellations afterwards, no snow day. We all dove right back into work, and that's why I didn't post yesterday, I was too tired. Only now, by Thursday AM, do we know the full extent of some of the damage, and with one full night's sleep, we can see what we've been through. The National Weather Service decides where the tornadoes hit, but we all know we saw quite a storm.


Blogger Nancy said...

I was concerned for you. Often we stop at the Cracker Barrel in Jackson, TN and that town needs serious help and prayers.

February 7, 2008 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Yes, Nancy, I was just torn up looking at the images of those dorm rooms in Jackson. Poor college students, how traumatic! I'm so glad that the faculty and staff rushed in to house them.

February 7, 2008 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger foodperson said...

Glad you're OK, but I can tell you most Kansans, including this one, do not watch from their front porches. I go to the basement. Basements and storm shelters can and do save lives!

February 7, 2008 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger SueJ said...

Wild, wild weather. So glad that you are OK, I hadn't realised the tornados had got to kentucky, although they did hit the news in the UK.

February 7, 2008 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Karen Johnson said...

So glad you are all ok! How frightening!

February 7, 2008 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Very glad to hear that all is fine with you and yours....some of the stories of destruction are just chilling...the power of the storms, terrifying

February 8, 2008 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger rita said...

I'm glad that your family is okay. I've only seen one tornado, and there I stood, taking photos, excited that it was close enough to get good ones.

Yep, too dumb to realize that it was only half a mile away--the wind was blowing toward it, so I didn't hear the roaring.

No one has ever accused me of having good judgment.

February 8, 2008 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I'm relieved that you are okay.

You know what I know - no words.

February 8, 2008 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Oh Joanne, I'm glad you are all okay! How scary.

February 8, 2008 at 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that exact weird shade of green--it's beyond freaky. I was once on the last plane allowed to land at Dulles airport in Virginia before a tornado touched down at the airport, and we skidded sideways down that runway. My folks had a tornado touch down in Maryland on a 150' poplar right outside their living room; the top half of it exploded. They came home to floor-to-ceiling massive tree trunks going through the ceiling and on both floors of the house, and were really really glad that they had not been home and that the neighbors, who watched it happen, were okay.

I'm so sorry for all the folks near you who aren't!

February 8, 2008 at 7:33 PM  

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