Now, why set my home aflame? Seriously?
I have three smoke alarms in my home. Should one of them start screaming, I would likely remove all things living before I worry about removing objects. Likely, if there were time to chase after objects, I would find the fire extinguisher first and use it before the fire took my home. Also, it might be a good idea to call for fire services before rescuing objects.
During tornado season, I keep what is important to me, those items that cannot be tucked inside a bank drawer, close together. I have a backup drive that I keep at my desk near my purse. When the tornado sirens go off or if warnings are set for a nearby county, I tuck that backup drive inside my purse along with a pack of cigarettes. We usually keep fresh water in the basement during storm season and I have animal crackers (these are actually small cookies) to take down as well. The cats are the biggest issue, they tend to run and hide when there is a lot of noise. We have two animal crates in the basement to secure our pets during a tornado.
There was one year (March 12, 2006) that we heard the first of several sirens early in the morning and spent most of the day in the basement. There were four tornado alerts that day, the first started somewhere around 8:00 am. I was in the shower when my dad called; he lives in northern Iowa, to warn us that there was a tornado moving toward us. I checked the radar on my computer and sure enough there was a serious cell flying toward us. I had time to wake the husband and dress myself before the sirens sounded. A few moments after the sirens started, my daughter and her family arrived. (They did not have adequate shelter at their home.) Code Red called and reported the sirens were for a dangerous thunderstorm, damaging winds, hail, and the like. We moved the children to the basement, but a couple of us adults returned to the ground floor to make a breakfast for us. Just after the breakfast was prepared, a second siren sounded, and Code Red called again to report this one was for a tornado on the ground near our city. We ate breakfast in the basement. The first storm cell missed us, we got heavy rain and some wicked wind, but no damage.
We were in the basement for nearly two hours before the city alert system sounded the “all clear.” I called my day back and told him we were good and he told me we were in for a bad day. There were several storm cells moving toward us. There was lightning and thunder, but we returned to the ground floor and kept the children busy while we watched another monster cell approach on the radar. The third Code Red, second tornado siting, came sometime around noon or 1 pm. The children were working on an art project; we moved it to the basement. My dad called on the land line, my eldest daughter called on my cell, and the eldest son, called on his dad’s cell. Everyone wanted to know what was going on. The eldest daughter was on her way in from another city; I told her not to come as the weather was too bad, she was already in route. The eldest was returning home from an out of town visit: we told him to stay put, but he had already left as well. We put my dad on speaker and spent about thirty minutes giving radar reports to the eldest daughter. Ninety minutes later, the eldest daughter arrived. She had encountered heavy rain, hail, and strong winds, and actually spotted the tornado a distance from the highway. She was a little rattled, but not harmed. We hadn’t heard from the eldest son yet.
The eldest son arrived about thirty minutes after the daughter. He had decided to turn back, but when the winds became so strong as to trouble his steering, he changed his mind and turned back toward home. (Next day, he would be informed that a friend and their family was killed when the storm had blown a another vehicle off coarse and into the oncoming lane. They struck the friend’s vehicle head-on killing everyone save a small child.) The fourth Code Red, a damaging thunderstorm, came sometime near five pm. We had started supper, but had to stop for the sirens. My son-in-law kept running up the stairs to finish the simple meal. After a few minutes the radio station had cleared the storm and we served supper. Less than 30 minutes after the meal began the fifth Code Red, third tornado warning, sounded. Back to the basement we went. (Son-in-law took the food with him.)
This tornado turned out to be two on the ground: one northwest of our city, the other south west. Not good. We had been dodging storms all day; I was starting to feel like our luck was wearing a little too thin. About 6:00 pm, my dad called again. “Are you still there?” he asked. Yeah, so far we were good, but… “There’s another tornado coming,” he told us. We were on the phone only long enough for me to tell him what the radar looked like down here…then the power went out and he was gone. We called him back on a cell to let him know what happened and promised to call back when things calmed down. It would be three hours before we could call him back again. The super cell was huge and it was slow. We could hear the wind howling from the basement. Hail the size of golf balls bounced against the house. It rained so hard that we couldn’t see anything through the basement window. We listened and prayed. Then, silence. I said the words: “Oh, fuck!” I don’t often use that language but I had been through enough tornados to know the sound of silence is NOT a good thing. I tied to see out the window but the angry clouds had blocked out what was left of the sun. As the wind picked up again, we gathered the grandchildren and secured them in the bathroom with the two youngest. I moved from window to window trying to see what was happening outside. The window I was looking through sucked up against its frame toward the outside. I moved back. Then there was a loud crash and the house trembled. I may have cursed again, but I do recall growling the word “NO, not my house,” several times. Scared, angry, maybe both, but by the time we got an “all clear” I was completely stressed. I launched myself toward the stairs, followed by my husband. It was dark, we couldn’t see anything, but the house was still at the top of the stairs and that was a good thing. (We discovered a large branch broke free and stuck the deck which is attached to the house.) One of the two tornados had lifted up and passed over us as a funnel cloud. That was too close.
When the power returned, the television reporter was saying that we were not done yet. Sure enough, somewhere around 10:00 pm, another Code Red, sixth Code Red, fourth tornado if you’re still counting. It was too dark to see anything and I was too exhausted to freak, so we sat in the basement in silence and watched the storm cell pass us on the radar. When the “all clear” came, we didn’t even care. The children spent the night in the basement. The husband and I returned to the basement only once more while another, the seventh, Code Red alerted us to a dangerous thunderstorm. Sometime around 2:00 am, the husband and I went to our bed on the ground floor with thunder rumbling in the distance and wind still howling.
- 5 Big Mistakes Made During Tornado Warnings – NewsChannel5.com (newschannel5.com)