As a kid, I was always afraid of storms. I can still remember being afraid of any dark cloud in the sky and once going to sleep to avoid seeing a severe storm that was coming through. As I got older and learned more about the weather, my fear subsided. However, it was moving to Oklahoma that really cured me of it. Living in central Oklahoma is a form of facing-your-fears tough love when you are scared of bad weather.
I’ve come to accept many things while living here. I’ve accepted that it’s going to storm. Tornadoes will come near my house, if not directly over it. I will hear the tornado sirens several times during the year. Being afraid of the weather doesn’t change those facts. You build up resistance with each storm that you survive unscathed. It also helps to have the country’s best meteorologists who can pinpoint the exact minute a storm will cross a specific street intersection.
I used to think “This is going to be exciting!” upon hearing that a severe storm was coming our way. After all, storm-watching is a popular pastime here. It’s how we met our neighbors. It’s part of the culture, whether you’re outside experiencing it firsthand, or glued to the TV watching the weathermen hyperventilate in their excitement. There is even a Gary England (Oklahoma’s most renowned meteorologist) drinking game that is only truly appreciated by those who have lived here during tornado season.
However, now it’s not so funny. After having Charlie, I’ve noticed that my fear of storms is returning. When I hear a tornado siren now, my first thought is “Oh my God, we’re all going to die!” (slight exaggeration) I didn’t even realize what I was in store for today.
I had checked the weather earlier today when it started getting dark outside. I don’t watch local news, so the weather is always a surprise to me. Anyway, I saw that we had a 60% chance of severe storms. It started thundering around 1:30 or so, but business really picked up when I heard the sirens go off around 2:00.
I quickly turned off the Gilmore Girls rerun that I had on the television and turned to a local channel where the meteorologists were so excited they were about to wet themselves. I knew then that it was going to be bad. They tracked the predicted path of the rotation, and I got a sharp pang in my stomach when I saw it was going directly over our neighborhood.
I kept watching the TV coverage as the storm grew closer and damaged familiar locations—taking the roof off of the nearby Target, damaging the windows of my Hobby Lobby, and damaging the back of the Chuck E. Cheese a few miles away. Hearing the hail starting to fall outside, I knew it would soon be over our neighborhood.
I dug out my cell phone, grabbed a house phone, and turned up all of the TVs in the house. I got my shoes on and put pants and shoes on Charlie. I planned for all of us to go into the guest bedroom, where I could easily slide the mattress over us and create a little fort. I heard a huge down-blast of wind outside, rattling the windows and making the spinning roof airvents hum. I waited for the notorious freight train sound. But nothing happened. The next thing I heard on TV was that the rotation crossed the turnpike which is 1 mile north of us. It had missed us.
People in Edmond were not as lucky. The tornado touched down for about 10 minutes there, damaging many homes. I watched it on TV, as it whipped power lines and uprooted trees, swirling them in the air. It was almost 3:00 by this time, and Edmond schools kept everyone on lockdown, not letting the busses run.
We were out of the clear of that storm, but two others came, taking the same path near us. I heard the sirens two more times as new tornado warnings were issued. Although we missed the major damage, each storm brought us hail. The third wave was the worst. There are some pictures of it on Flickr.
Seeing a tornado is a little like seeing a ghost. I would love to be able to say that I’ve seen one, but I really don’t want to go through the actual experience of seeing it. And especially now that I have Charlie to think about, I’d just as soon not experience any bad storms (or ghosts for that matter!).