Saturday, April 30, 2011

The oak tree's connected to the . . . pine tree

The pine tree's connected to the . . . maple tree; the maple tree's connected to the . . . Bradford Pear, and they all came tumbling down.

I heard the tornado sirens when they went off a little after 5 on Wednesday morning. I chalk that up to the fact that I'm a mother and I never sleep all the way anyway, as I'm always half listening for someone crying or throwing up. If you live in the South, you know what to do when the sirens go off: you turn on the TV (that's because it's a county-wide siren, and it's a big county, so just because the siren is going off doesn't necessarily mean there is any dangerous weather near you). We had a big laugh with David's Aunt Missy, who was visiting from Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago when some bad weather came through and the sirens went off. She said that if she hadn't been able to get a hold of one of us, she and Leni (David's cousin) would have grabbed the wine and cheese and rushed down to the basement, and they might still be there, because they wouldn't have any idea when it was safe to come out (which might not be a bad way to spend a weekend, depending on the wine).

Anyway, when the sirens go off you turn on the TV, which is what I did. I saw that the center of activity was still west of us and debated whether to wake the kids (and David) right then to head to the basement. I was worried about our missle pines. I went to the bedroom, shook David and told him where the storms were, and he said "Huh? Wuh? Thunderstorms." and went back to sleep. I then went back to the TV, and within a few minutes heard one of my personal magic "basement" words (our town or any town that borders us) and decided no further consulting was necessary, it was time to go to the basement. David and I gathered the kids and flashlights and made our way down.

It's always a little hard to hear the weather report when we're watching with the kids because they are chatterboxes that came with only two volumes -- loud and louder. We could see that it was headed in our direction. We heard really heavy wind, and I *thought* I heard a bang. Then the power went out. The kids screamed (as they always do when the power goes out). When the storm was clearly past us, David went upstairs to check things out.

Turns out we had five or six old, large trees blown over like they were Popsicle sticks. This is only noteworthy because of how insignificant losing five or six large trees was in the scheme of what happened in our neighborhood that morning (which, in turn, was utterly insignificant compared to what happened in other parts of the city and state later that night). Our next door neighbor woke up to sheetrock falling on his face -- he did not hear the sirens and was in bed asleep when a tree fell on his bedroom. {Yet another reason why I'm taking out those missle pines -- I'm 99% sure I'll always hear the sirens, but each of our next door neighbors has taken a tree in a bedroom over the past couple of weeks (our other neighbors got an oak in their baby's nursery), so I'm not taking any chances}.

My elementary kids, bizarrely, had school that morning. Only bizarre because the school didn't have any power, and entire neighborhoods could not get out because trees were blocking both major thoroughfares and the roads leading into and out of numerous neighborhoods (I chalk up the fact that they had school to the complete confusion that reigned in this whole area that morning). The school closed late morning, and I picked them up even earlier than closing time because by then, I had made it my mission in life to procure a car-charger for my iPhone before the next (and expected to be worse) rounds of storm came through. Since we had no power, and no land line, a charged iPhone would be my only contact with the outside world and the only way to track the even more severe storms that would be coming through later in the day. And I had already realized that getting ANYWHERE was going to be a problem. Everywhere I went, I'd encounter massive trees or downed power lines blocking the road. On top of all of this, the gas light came on in my car, and I couldn't find a gas station that had power (and therefore operational pumps). Oh, and somewhere in the middle of this we ended up in the parking lot of Walgreen's, which was also out of power, but had employees leading cash/check customers into the store by flashlight to buy provisions. One of the clerks loaned me her car charger, and I idled in the parking lot for 20 minutes or so juicing up my phone. Weird day.

We FINALLY made it to a neighboring town, where we gassed up and found a car charger. And then we went home and waited for the really bad storms to come through. After driving around that morning, I truly thought that our neighborhood looked like a war zone -- huge, downed trees everywhere, crushed roofs, mangled power lines. But it wasn't until the next day, when we saw pictures of the damage from the tornado that barreled through the state that night (and touched down several miles north of us) that we saw what a real war zone looks like. We feel very lucky. And very sad.

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