*photo cred from April Yost. Facebook. Taken in my hood.
October of 2013 and we are looking for where God would lead us next. I prayed that it would be a place with no tornadoes and a place where I could get back home to visit in a day in the car. I hate to fly almost as much as I hate tornadoes. So, these were my straightforward requests. Naturally, we packed up and left Ca to come to Missouri. 1800 miles away and on the edge of tornado alley. I asked and asked about the tornadoes and everyone was like, “oh, we barely deal with that here”. Well last Wednesday, I apparently experienced the barely.
*Warning to anyone reading this of midwestern descent: I’ve tried to minimize the drama here. Keep your laughing to a minimum. Remember I’m newish and arrived with an intense fear of tornadoes. Thank you and please continue…
Two days ago, I was sitting in Panera, having dinner with a friend. I had a photo shoot at 8pm, so I had been watching the weather. I checked before I left the house at 5 pm and there was a small chance of thunderstorms, that was it. I met my friend for dinner and about 6:40 or so, I get an alert on my phone for a tornado watch. I looked at the window and all looked clear. I guess I am getting acclimated to life in the midwest, because the alert didn’t really concern me. A couple of loud thunders later and I started to pay attention. Moments later multiple phones start beeping that intense alert sound all across the restaurant. I look down and my phone was flashing to seek shelter immediately. It was a different alert than I had ever seen. Being from California and new to all this business, I look around and study people to see if I should be concerned. Some were concerned, some were eating soup, and some were up looking out the window. My friend called her husband to see what we should do and he suggested we get to the church because it was close by and there was a basement. We walked outside and I heard it, my first tornado siren. Chilling as I imagined it would be. Did you know tornado sirens were NOT designed to be heard indoors? Only outdoors? Little bit of trivia.
So I’m standing there thinking what is worse? Try to get to a basement somewhere or go back in Panera where there was really no really good place to go for safety. We chose to go back in. Because as I told my friend, I’ve seen too many you tube videos of tornadoes where I am all, “why are those people driving during a tornado warning?”. I didn’t want to be one of them. It was a bit chaotic inside. Nobody really knew what to do, including the workers. We were asking them where we should go, what their plan was? Finally, about 6:55 we are instructed to get in the freezer. We shut the door and then the power goes out. It was surreal. I just kept thinking this can not be happening. The power flickered a few times, and came back on. That is when a lady entered that had been driving by and pulled in to take cover. She told us that there was a tornado on the ground about 2 miles away. Then she took selfies with her friends. (The tornado indeed touched down at 6:54, two miles away). Of course there is. I never panicked, but I did start wondering if this metal box that we were standing in would withstand anything. I realized my babies were at home with my husband, and my teens were at church. I knew they were all in basements and as safe as possible. I looked around at the 10 year old crying and hugging her mama next to me, the two little kids clinging to their parents from cold and playing the iPhone seemingly unaware of the impending danger, and I look at the shelves that were stalked with a freakish amount of mayonnaise. I start on a rabbit trail in my own head wondering just how much mayonaise does a restaurant really need. Maybe it was on sale wherever they purchase it from. There was all kinds of other food, but none in the quantity that the mayonnaise was. It was then I realized that my friend was tending to everyone around her. Meeting people, talking, smiling, at peace. I was numb and wondering if I was going to be in a tornado with my last thought contemplating Panera’s mayonnaise quantity. Lord, how did I get here?
We were released from the freezer and some people left the restaurant. After looking at the weather, we decided to stay put. It was nasty. Then after a couple of minutes we were told to go back in the freezer as there was another warning just issued. After another 15 minutes or so, a fireman came in and said that there was going to be a small break in the storm and we were clear to get home. Panera informed us that they were closing for the night and we needed to leave. We asked to stay through 8 pm and the end of that tornado warning. They obliged and told us to help ourselves to a cookie on the way out. I was shocked at the lack of any kind of plan they had in an emergency situation, but let me tell you, their freezer? Spotless. So there’s that and I don’t really feel like a cookie, but thank you.
I have never seen it rain so hard in all my life. A short few feet to the car and I was drenched. I thank my friend for dinner as I run to my car. She yells “I love you”. “I love you, too,” I yell back and I was on my own. My next goal was to get to church about ten minutes away. I call my husband and ask him to call the teens and have them come to the door so they could jump in the car and we could all get home before the next storm arrived. Church was right on the way and it seemed smart so we wouldn’t have to go back out later and get them. As I pull in to church, multiple people were leaving, so I felt a bit better about my decision to keep going home. As my daughter jumps in the car she says, “mom, the sirens are going off again we have to go back in side.” I leave the car and we further added to our drowned rat appearance as we make our way in the building. There I find my son immediately. People are still leaving, so I tell the kids…let’s go. We dash back to the car, tornado sirens blaring, lightening flashing, thunder crashing, and rain like I’ve never seen. We have about 7 or 8 minutes until home. In hindsight maybe not the smartest idea? But for whatever reason, it’s what I did. The whole night was kinda like that. There really is not a thing that everybody was doing, so you have to figure it out.
As we are driving, it is obvious how bad the flooding is starting to get. Too late to turn back now. Not many people are on the roads and we pass several police with lights on. I wonder where they are going. I look to the right and the nastiest clouds I have ever seen are staring back. I wonder if that holds the end of the “break” in the storms that we were supposedly in. I hold my daughter’s hand and tell her we are almost home. We just need to get home. That drive sucked, tbh. Bad.
It has never felt so fabulous to pull in my driveway. My husband met us and we headed to our basement. We did the normal things, I guess. Watched the news, texted, changed into dry clothes, lit candles, and said a billion times I can’t believe we live somewhere where this stuff happens. Occasionally, we went upstairs to see what was going on. At one point it was green. I couldn’t see the sidewalk. It looked like we were in a dust storm. Wind, rain, lightening, thunder, and then a tree branch blew by our window and we decided to go back downstairs and stay put.
I heard reports of 4-6 inches of rain, 8,000 lightening strikes per 5 minutes, 80mph winds. Not sure how accurate all that is. I don’t need the stats. It was bad.
About ten thirty or so it was all over. Shawn went to the corner for crushed ice, cheap frozen pizzas, and sour cream and onion chips. It was everyone’s requests. His report after returning home was lots of flooding, lots of trees down, and a trampoline in our neighbors tree. I live here.
After consuming the most unhealthy dinner in all the world at 11 pm, we all try and get some sleep. Morning couldn’t come soon enough. Daylight please.
It was a reminder of the absolute reality of how out of control we are in our lives. At any given moment during a normal day I don’t live like, hey that car could hit us on the freeway. What if I get cancer? What if an elephant runs me over at the zoo and kills me dead? I mean how absurd. Yet, when I was standing in that freezer with no options of where to go I imagined how tiny we were and what the skies looked like that were swirling above my head. I have never felt so small and helpless. It just reminds me how easy it is to have faith when faith isn’t really required to get through your life. Having faith in the all too close for comfort moments? That is when it counts.
As soon as I woke up, we all got in the car to drive around and look at damage. We went and saw where the tornado touched down and drove around our neighborhood as well. I could not believe the amount of trees down in my neighborhood. Huge trees snapped in half. all. over. Knocked out of the ground roots and all. There were two trampolines crumpled up and sitting haphazardly in odd places. I exit our subdivision and drive the street that runs along the side of it, about a mile from my house. A roof was gone, a little barn was destroyed and scattered everywhere, and again more trees down. I read online that a tornado had been confirmed touched down here as well. Awesome. Two tornadoes, two hours apart, both within two miles of me. TOO MUCH.
So grateful it was not worse. Because it could have been SO much worse. F1. No injuries were reported from any of the damage. Hard to fathom the whole thing honestly. It was barely posted on Facebook. No one really has talked about it. I can only imagine that this is like when there is a 4.8 earthquake in Cali. It’s a non issue really. Yeah it could have been worse, but it wasn’t. It is the price you pay for living on the San Andreas Fault. Your heart beats a bit faster and you ask everyone around you, “Did you feel that?”. Because of course they did but somehow you have to make sure. So I am still shaking days later, but I suppose I’ll get used to it. Next time maybe I’ll join the others and stand in the parking lot and take video.
Years ago, I had the pleasure of being miles from the epicenter of the Loma Prieta quake in ’89. I’ve been asked by friends back home, “what’s better? earthquakes or tornadoes??”
The answer? They are both scary.
I recommend neither.
Check out some pictures and video here.
This was shot by somebody from the parking lot right outside where I was. Unbelievable video.