Monday, July 26, 2010

A Little Too Much Excitement

Hoo boy. Hoo boy hoo boy hoo boy. Tornado. Hoooooo boy.

I spent the last ten days in Iowa and had a fantastic time. The stories will surely be trickling out over the next few days. But by far the most exciting event was the tornado on Friday night.

Now, I have to preface this by saying that I was raised on the east coast, and when I was a child I was absolutely terrified of tornadoes. My mom reassured me that it was impossible for tornadoes to strike where it was so hilly. That gave me some comfort.

Logically, I also knew that where I was staying in Indianola, Iowa, was also probably too hilly for tornadoes, and there were too many houses to allow for one to strike ground. I didn't worry about it. How often do tornadoes happen, anyway? It's not like Twister is a documentary.

I was in bed early on Friday night, reading and listening to a crazy-ass thunderstorm that was going on outside. It was not the first crazy-ass thunderstorm we'd had that week, so I didn't really think much of it. It was getting pretty wild though, and in my sleepy state I started envisioning trees crashing into the house and other such excitement. Then I heard this most unearthly wailing, which I could not for the life of me identify. I was just starting to recall something that Kathy had mentioned about tornado sirens in the town that would go off if there was danger, when I hear Kathy yell from the next room, "Kathryn! We've got to go to the basement!"

Tornado sirens. Good grief. We went to the basement, and I was managing to keep all my panicking internal, mainly because Kathy didn't seem very concerned. We curled up on the couch with the dog and some blankets, and flipped on the TV to see what was happening. They had the Doppler on the weather channel showing the storm right over us, but we weren't too concerned. Then they had reports of a tornado touching down outside Indianola. The weather guy kept clicking and zooming in, and Kathy said "Whoa, that's right near us." Then I started getting very nervous. Then the weather camera at Simpson College, a little ways up the street, kicked on. It was basically pointed down our street, and the funnel was in full view, and getting closer. We realized from the landmarks visible in the camera that we were in between the camera and the funnel, and closer to the funnel than the camera. (Check out the picture of what we were watching in TV here.) The weather man clicked back to the Doppler over the street map of Indianola, and Chris yelled, "Holy shit, that thing's right on top of us!"

Even Kathy was nervous now. While I had spent the previous several minutes looking around in vain for something attached to the ground to hold onto when the tornado inevitably took our entire house away (remember, Twister was my main tornado education), she was taking it in stride. So when she looked at me and said, "We need to get into a corner," I nearly died. We grabbed the dog and shifted position to under the steel support beam that runs along the length of the house, and watched the tornado on the weather camera start kicking up debris as it moved from a field to a subdivision just down the street. Kathy just couched there and whispered, "They say it sounds just like a train coming through." Chris opened a couple of windows in case it got close enough for the air pressure to blow them out. I didn't want to hear any trains.

We watched the funnel on TV, and then watched it go back up into the cloud. After a few minutes, the sirens shut off, and we went upstairs to watch for more warnings on the TV up there. I was mainly just fascinated with the sky at this point. I have never seen so much lightning so close. It was all around, in all directions, and going at at sometimes multiple flashes a second. The thunder just kept coming in waves. But this was the worst: the sky was green.

Green, green, green. I have never seen a green sky like that.

Now I know what my friend's roommate was talking about when she said the weekend before that she was wondering if we were going to have a tornado, because the sky was green. It was still pretty light out, and the light was the color of filtering through layers upon layers of bright green leaves in a forest, but brighter and hazier.

I stood at the back door and watched the lightning and the green sky. Because as much as I was scared of tornadoes as a kid, I was even more fascinated by lightning. I will take any opportunity to watch it. The best is in my current apartment, with my 19th-floor balcony overlooking Montreal's South Shore, where I can watch all kinds of storms developing from a safe distance.

I eventually headed back to bed, once the tornado threat was passed. Didn't sleep though. Not with all the adrenaline from being scared and the racket from the storm going on outside. The thunder was going all night long.

I rethought my growing decision to move to Iowa next year, something that has been years in coming, and the reason I headed down there this summer.

It only lasted a few minutes though. Then Kathy let me drive the truck the next day. And I decided that Iowa was the place for me.

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