Living in a world with tornadoes

My heart is breaking for those who lost family in Joplin. Tornadoes are one of the harshest disasters. The clouds do not discriminate. If you are in the path, you are a target.

Some of you, but I doubt very many, know that I was in a tornado when I was seven. The thing took the roof off our house as my brother and I huddled under a mattress in the hallway. My mother was in the kitchen. My father just had made it in from the backyard where he had collected a mother rabbit and her babies from the outdoor cage.

There’s a lot to add to this story. Neighbors put photographs in our mailbox for days since a box of them had accidentally found the way to the attic. Even now when I see one in an album at my folks house with a splinter of wood through the paper I’m reminded how lucky we were. The amusing anecdote? The house had just sold and closed earlier that day. My folks were renting it back from the new owners for a few days until we moved. Also, because of readying it for sale, they’d cleaned the carpet themselves. Without a roof it was soaked straight through and bubbles sprang up from it when you walked on it.

The next day when I went to school I asked the teacher if I could sleep at my desk for recess. When she asked why I told her. Since it was well known I hated recess (such a waste of time from learning!) she raised her brow but let me anyway. Someone must have filled her in because she came back to the room after that break with an apology for not believing me. (Me? Exaggerate? Maybe I was born with it.) It took a few years for me to understand school was the best place for me after that night. My parents had a lot to do.

When we moved to Wisconsin I thought we were out of Tornado Alley. Not true. There have been a number of times we’ve headed to the basement – at least we have one now – to wait out a storm. That’s what a lot of people don’t understand about that region of the country. While many have had storm cellars dug (we had one growing up; my folks have one now) for the most part there are no basements. I was always told it was because of the clay, but after digging in my own backyard, I doubt that’s the reason.

I look at the destruction in Joplin and know there’s so much more sadness to come.

An article from the Christian Science Monitor prompted this post. In there it talks of the growing ineffectiveness of early warning because of the false calls. I know that’s been one of my pet peeves in Brookfield. Still, if a siren causes you to turn on the tv or radio, perhaps it’s done the job as intended. The article also talks about the inconvenience of power loss in the warning system. I grew up knowing if the power went out you find the battery radio. I have one here. I’m not sure we should put the false promise of full protection into the minds of those at risk. It still takes a lot of personal responsibility to get off the road, get underground, find shelter.

Did I tell you about the time we couldn’t get in touch with dad for an hour after the big tornado hit the GM plant in 2003? That wasn’t a lot of fun, either.

Like I started, tornadoes have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I pray for those struggling after this one. Sadly, it won’t be the last.


  1. BrkfldDad says:

    I can’t imagine the destruction. I did business with Cliffstar in Joplin for many years. I’m praying that those I worked with are okay. Drove from Perry, OK to Dallas in one helluva storm two weeks back, pretty ominous, all those jet black clouds and the flat horizon.

  2. I know Perry! Wow. I didn’t realize the road plunked you down in Oklahoma sometimes. Maybe you should take me with you. 🙂

  3. BrkfldDad says:

    It was my first time in OK in years! Working an opportunity with The Charles Machine Works folks (aka DitchWitch)

  4. Ah, DitchWitch. Tell them Cindy said they had to sign. 🙂

  5. We stayed in Joplin, MO 6 weeks ago. (It was our first night’s stop for our New Mexico/Arizona vacation.) It is an eerie feeling to learn a place you just visited is now suffering such devastation. My heart goes out to those people there.

    Your account, Cindy, of the roof flying off your house is amazing. I imagine that memory is etched into your psyche!Wisconsin weather, at least in our neck of the woods, is looking better to me all the time.

    I agree about the sirens being used too much for too many different reasons. If I hear the siren, I do go to the basement.

  6. Cindy, I just saw on the news tonight that Oklahoma City was having a tornado. I hope all is well with everyone there too. Your tornado story is something! I guess I was in one when I was a baby…of course I don’t remember it but my mom used to tell the story about taking me down to the cellar and I slept the entire time! Luckily no one was hurt.

  7. All clear so far. Thanks for asking.