May 13, 2010

Stormy Weather

I told you a couple of days ago that those of us who live in the vicinity of Tornado Alley take tornado watches in stride, and only start to pay attention if it's a tornado warning AND we have reason to believe we are in the actual path of a tornado. Still, this time of year, we are somewhat on alert whenever we have storms come through, particularly when it has been warm and a cool front is the cause of those storms.

So last night when it was still 81 degrees at 8:00, and I saw dark clouds coming in, I knew we could be in for a rough night. I'd been home about an hour when the first storm rolled through, but it was over in a matter of minutes.

The weather forecast at 10:00 didn't predict anything more than severe thunderstorms to come around sunrise, but I did the tornado weather bedtime ritual anyway, making sure I had clothes out that I could grab on the way downstairs, should sirens go off.

At some point during the night, I woke up, and noticed the ceiling fan was running but the fan I keep pointed in my direction all night had stopped. I turned to look at the clock and it had gone off, and that's about the time I realized the ceiling fan wasn't really was just winding down. The power had just gone off.

I could hear thunder, and then I realized that it was also windy. Really windy. I lay in bed for several minutes listening to the ferocious wind and trying to decide if I should get up to find my cell phone to find out what time it was.

Then the sirens went off.

There's nothing worse than the sirens going off in the middle of the night when you have no power, because then you have no idea why they're going off. The assumption is always that there must be a tornado.

I got out of bed and grabbed my clothes, my purse, and the emergency flashlight/nighlight and made my way downstairs to the bathroom. My cats followed me downstairs, but they were not remotely interested in going into the half-bath with me. I pulled my cell phone out of my purse and discovered it was just after 5:00 a.m. I got dressed, wishing I had grabbed comfortable mom jeans instead of the cute jeans, but decided it probably wasn't worth going back upstairs since for all I knew, a tornado was headed my way.

I have an emergency radio in that bathroom, but the only station I could pick up had no news. The song it was playing was "Lean on Me". Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

After about 15 minutes of hanging out in the bathroom, unable to coax more than one cat at a time to join me, I decided it had been quiet long enough that I could venture out of the bathroom. At no point had I heard anything that sounded like a freight train, one of the tell-tale signs of a tornado. Another sign that the barometric pressure has suddenly changed is a severe headache or earache. I had neither. I was fairly certain a tornado had not passed over me. I called my mom, who lives a little over a mile to my south, knowing she would be awake since the sirens had sounded.

I woke her up. She had fallen asleep with the TV on and slept through the sirens. Her power was on, and in her groggy state, she said that they weren't talking about storms on TV. I asked what she was watching. "CNN," she replied.

CNN wasn't covering our thunderstorm? Go figure.

I suggested she change to a local station, where she discovered the roof had been torn off of a shopping center a couple of blocks from me. The damage appeared to be from straight-line winds, up to 90 miles per hour, and not a tornado. She said there were reports of many trees and power lines down to my east. They said the sirens had been sounded because the winds were so strong, and not because a tornado had been sighted. (Later I heard the suggestion that there is a different sound for the wind warning, but when sirens sound at 5:00 a.m., that distinction is going to be totally lost on me. The flood warning sound I know - it's like a British police siren - but this is the first I've ever heard of a different sound for wind. I don't remember them ever going off for wind before at all.)

Since there was nothing else to do, I went on and got dressed, and left the house as soon as it was light, so I would be able to clearly see any hazards. It was a little difficult getting everything together in the dark because everything I put down was soon swallowed up in the glasses, keys, everything I needed to make an escape. Finally, I had everything together and ventured out into dawn's early light.

There were two things I noticed when I walked to my car.

1) My row of condos was the only one in the complex without power.
2) Some leaves had been stripped off of the trees, but that was about it.

Then as I turned to pull out of the complex, I discovered there was a little more damage than I thought. A tree blocked my path.

OK, I didn't wait until it was totally light, but it wasn't totally dark either. And see the light on the lamp post? Something about that irritated me.

I tried the next drive, but it was also blocked, so I drove around to the north side of the complex, where more trees were down.

These people still had power, which is lucky for them. They're not going anywhere anytime soon.

Finally I made my way out of the complex. I had to turn to the west to make my way to work as the police had the street blocked to my east. (I would show you a picture of that, but all you can see is my windshield. I didn't think the officers would be amused if I got out of my car to take their picture.)

The drive to work was uneventful, except for a number of traffic lights that were out. When I came to the first one I couldn't understand what people were waiting for until I realized the light was out and it was my turn to go. Fortunately there's not a lot of traffic at 6:20 a.m.

The Panera by work was open, so I decided to treat myself.

Now, as I listen to the radio, there's some speculation that there might have been a small tornado or a gustnado a mile or two east of me, but they're still leaning towards the straight-line wind theory. I still haven't seen much in the way of pictures yet, but a number of homes and business were damaged. But so far there are no reports of serious injuries.

God is good.


  1. And people were laughing...guffawing even at the prospect of yet another storm.
    I don't know what woke me...the power going off making my cell phone on the charger beep, the siren or what sounded like a Mini Coop hitting my roof...probably all three.
    Damage surveyed - Backyard covered in tree debris, Frontyard not so bad, Roof has several large branches on it (the Mini Coop).

  2. I never looked up as I left the house, so I'm just hoping the shingles are all still there. There weren't any leaks, so I took that as a positive sign!

  3. Omigosh...! I think if I lived in an area that had regular tornadoes, I would find some way to relocate. I think tornadoes must be just about the most horrible thing someone could experience, and you get very little warning. *shudder*

  4. I think it's the "little warning" part that makes them tolerable. There's not time to worry about them, and we don't have any control anyway, so we just take them as they come. Everybody's got something...or so they say. =)

  5. I have to agree, everyone has some sort of natural disasster threatening to strike.

    I had to chuckle at the fact that all the other condos in your complex had power. After Ike, my friend's condo across the street had power, but it took a week for my power to come back. Not fun.

  6. I used to live in tornado alley (Wichita Falls). Those sirens scare the bejeepers out of me!

  7. Stephy - The plus side is that those sirens can certainly provide a wake-up call!

  8. Tornado watches are scary. When we lived in Minnesota they happened often. I would watch TV until I felt I could safely go to bed, but I remember more than once waking in the middle of the night wondering if we were being surprised by a tornado. I don't think we had sirens in our neighborhood, which was about 30 miles from MSP. I was going to get one of those weather radios that sends out an alarm, but we moved. Glad you are safe and sound.