The Weather Channel’s Website is notorious for sending me storm warning emails every time the sun goes behind a cloud, so I usually delete them unread from my Inbox. Tuesday night, I should have paid more attention to them, but I didn’t realize what I missed until afterwards. I was skeptical as always about any bad weather on the horizon. As Susie and I were leaving her choir practice at church, the ground was dry and not a drop of rain had fallen.
It would seem that I slept through a typhoon pre-dawn Wednesday morning. My clock radio went off at 7 a.m. as usual. I almost always wake up for brief periods of time during the night, still too tired to get out of bed, but awake enough to be able to glance at the digital clock and say, “Ah, I have x hours of sleep left before I have to get up.” Susie has been on spring break this entire week, so I haven’t heard her moving around as she gets ready to head out to catch the school bus.
Susie was still in bed Wednesday morning when I roused myself a little after 7. Seven a.m. is late for her, since she has to catch her bus at 6:30 (I think she sets her alarm for 5:45). As I was in the shower, Steph came in and asked me if I had heard all the sirens during the night.
This completely puzzled me. What sirens? When she first mentioned “sirens,” my first thought was that there had been several arrests during the night. We have no shortage of reprobate neighbors, including the Bickersons on the other side of our half double. It would not at all be unusual for police to be coming en masse because of some disturbance or another.
When Steph mentioned all the wind and the rain, I realized she didn’t mean police sirens. The tornado sirens had gone off, and there had been plenty of high-velocity winds and rain pelted the house. Steph’s bedroom faces the street, and there are no buildings across the street, so she could see and feel it all as it beat against her windows. (My bedroom windows face the windows of the house next door, so there is a buffer between any weather and my room.) She said she pulled up Channel 10’s Doppler radar on her laptop, and watched the storm as it changed. She considered awakening Susie and me, so we could all head to the basement (no doubt with laptop in tow, either on the National Weather Service’s site or Channel 10’s) and wait out the storm.
Before she could marshal the energy to do that, the worst of the storm had passed over our area. I blissfully slept through the whole thing, and it seems I wasn’t alone. Adding to my hesitancy about whether a tornado was really happening, the Conrail tracks are not too far from our house, and they run parallel to our street. The trains’ sounds are easy to block, and I’m sure that if a real tornado was bearing down on us, my first thought would be it was a really fast and a really loud train roaring by. (I have heard that’s what a tornado sounds like when you’re in the midst of it.)
When I got to work, many of my fellow employees were comparing notes about the ferocity of the storm, how loudly the sirens sounded (and for how long), and what damage they had seen. One of my supervisors lives in Groveport, and the storm came within kissing distance of her neighborhood. (Other than some overturned garbage cans, I saw no evidence of a storm, not even felled tree limbs.)
I have never had a fear of storms or inclement weather. When I was younger, they were a welcome treat, a change from the usual. When the power went out, it was even more exciting. The transistor radio was our only conduit for news and information. Candles burned in every room, and sometimes I would even be allowed to carry a candle of my own–and I was forbidden to be anywhere near matches, even to blow out my parents’ matches after they had lit cigarettes with them.
This never changed. When I was 10 or 11, a storm was an excellent opportunity to start a taped letter to my grandfather, retired and living in Dunedin, Fla. Had he lived in this day and age, he probably would have spend his summers as a storm chaser. My mother said that the grayer and darker the skies were, the greater the chances they would find him lying in the back yard, intently studying the clouds and the sky as they changed colors and patterns. This stayed with him for life–he always had a book about storms nearby, and these books were his Bible when the weather turned bad. (He had even given our family a copy of Eric Sloane’s The Book of Storms, which I gripped in my hands whenever I first heard thunder. I later bought copies of some of Sloane’s other books, such as A Museum of Early American Tools and Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake–1805.)