Last Wednesday, I dropped Kiddo#1 off at Ten Miles Away and had to drive back to Angelborough for Kiddo#3’s soccer practice. No, there’s no margin for error in terms of the timing. Fortunately the traffic was light and although overcast, it hadn’t begun to rain, and the Kiddos enjoyed their Weird Al playlist while we came home.
At some point, I realized the kids weren’t listening to Weird Al, and Kiddo#4 had fallen asleep, so I turned on the radio, and two minutes later we got the “this-is-a-test” thing, except this time it wasn’t a test. This time, the recorded voice told us, there was a tornado warning.
My Patient Husband grew up in tornado country, but I didn’t. I wasn’t sure whether this warning meant there was an actual tornado, or that there was bad weather. But we were close to home, and given the light rain and the fact that soccer practice has been canceled more often than not, I turned in at the house and left the kids in the car, inside the garage. I turned on the computer and then called my Patient Husband, still at work in Ten Miles Away. Did he know about this?
Yes, he did. He said: forget soccer practice, put the kids in the basement, and stay down there. Listen for something that sounds like a freight train.
Ah. That’s what the warning meant.
Kiddo#3 was terrified. He had to go upstairs, tearful, and get his two favorite stuffed animals. Kiddo#2 went to get hers. I gathered bottled water, granola bars, etc. Kiddo#2 cleared out the space beneath the staircase. And then I got the other essentials: our computers; the cell phone; two cats; my violin; my box of Emily’s keepsakes.
And we watched on the computer, both the national weather service and on Twitter, as this thing blew over our heads. The kids and I prayed the rosary, something Kiddo#3 said he didn’t want to do but then did it louder than the rest of us. But they were calm, and practical. And Kiddo#4 enjoyed his little picnic in the basement.
While cleaning out under the steps, Kiddo#2 found a band-aid that had fallen out of one of the suitcases. She handed it to me, saying, “If the tornado hits, you might need to use this for one of us.”
Kiddo#3 wanted, desperately wanted, to call one of his friends to make sure she knew to go into the basement. And afterward, Kiddo#2 did get on the phone and call hers to make sure they were all right.
My “favorite” moment? When the NWS bulletin said there was an especially bad storm cell located about two miles west of the town that’s two miles east of us. I told you Angelborough was small: even the NWS couldn’t figure out where we are.
And the most puzzling moment: a tornado reported to be on the town line of two towns directly west of us, heading directly east, and then never reported again. That one scared me.
I’ve since spent a lot of time reading about tornado safety, even though it only happens here about once every fifteen years. Hurricanes and blizzards I know how to deal with, but this felt bigger to me, more random and more destructive if it hit. And us, in three different locations when it all happened.