5:00 p.m., sunny, 68 degrees
Yesterday, I was watching a number of the videos of the Moore, OK tornado. The news about those poor kids at the schools was absolutely heartbreaking. Seeing the destruction and hearing the stories is sickening and overwhelming. It is amazing that most people survived. I don't know how you move on when you've lost everything.
I also couldn't help but think of the tornadoes I've been through. Growing up in the Midwest, I have a few stories. Nothing nearly as devastating occurred, as far as I remember, as what happened the other day. It was always horrible enough just to hear the sirens going off and scrambling to the basement, hoping nothing awful would happen.
I lived eight years in the Kansas City, KS area, seven years in the Wichita area, about eight years in Nebraska, and 16 years in the Houston area. I have dealt with tornadoes in every place I've lived, except for where I live now. (When the kids were little, we'd spend the summers with my parents. So, add Cherokee, IA to that list.)
I only remember a couple of tornadoes in Kansas City. We were actually living in Shawnee, a suburb of K.C. The first time, we were living in the little green house, out in the country. It was part of a farm, and at one time had been some kind of a shed. I don't know how my parents felt about that little place, but I have fond memories. I was in kindergarten and thought it was great. I should know the road it was on, since I've asked so many times, but I'm drawing a blank, right now. Anyway. The upstairs was the living room and one big bedroom. Downstairs was the kitchen/dining area, which opened onto a patio in the back yard, and the bathroom, under the staircase. I remember one time having to get into the bathtub, as there was a tornado warning.
The other time, I was in first grade, living in the house on Flint, still in Shawnee (we moved around quite often, as the church would rent different parsonages - fun for me, probably not so much for my parents). It was a Sunday afternoon. My mom had gone to the store. In the evening, we would be going to church. After mom left, the sirens went off, so my dad took my brothers and me to the basement. I remember playing with my farm set. As my mom drove to the store, she looked ahead and saw a tornado. She turned around to come back home. Unfortunately, the front door was locked, so she couldn't get in. She wasn't happy.
Right after third grade, we moved to Haysville, just south of Wichita. There were a number of tornadoes in the years that I lived there. We had a basement at our house, and the church had a basement. The siren was on the water tower across the street. People in the city would show up at the church when the sirens would go off, so my dad would go there to unlock the doors and stay until the storm passed. Sometimes, it would happen during church. We'd all just head down to the basement. If a tornado occurred during the middle of the night, my dad would go over to the church, just a couple of blocks away, and the rest of us would stay at home. People living in the area would knock on the door and ask if they could go down to our basement. So, there we would be in our pajamas with a bunch of people we didn't know. My brother, Jerry Mark, would just be sitting there shaking, teeth rattling. He hated tornadoes.
I attended Nelson Grade School, or Elementary, whatever they called it back then. I was in fourth grade, and at the time, the fourth grade classes were held in the Hemphill Building next door to the school. It was in the spring of 1969. We were out at recess, it was an overcast day. The teachers called us in from recess, early, saying we needed to have a tornado drill. They took us down to the furnace room/basement and had us sit down. Unfortunately, we couldn't all fit, so we had to go back upstairs and sit in the hallway. At some point, a number of parents came in to get their kids. Of course, not mine. But my friend, Linda's, mom came and took her home. Eventually, we were back at our desks, half of the class having gone home.
Later, and I can't remember if it was days, months, or years later, Linda's mom, Pat, told me that there were several tornadoes spotted over the school. Kinda irritated me when I remembered we were told it was just a drill.
Throughout the years, Haysville has had to deal with many tornadoes. On May 3, 1999, a tornado would wreak horrible damage in Haysville, and if I had been living there in the same house, I think I would have been able to watch that tornado destroying part of the city.
A couple of tornadoes in Nebraska, but it was in Houston that I had to deal with the most tornadoes. And there are no basements/cellars in Houston. There wasn't even a warning system. Luckily, I was quite used to what tornado weather looked and felt like, so I knew to try to find out what was going on. Eventually, The Weather Channel existed, but we didn't have that when I first moved down there.
I was telling my husband, Dale, that I couldn't believe, with all of the tornadoes, that there were no sirens, no basements. And I don't think I'd lived there even a year, at that point. He commented that basements were not possible, there, because they were barely above sea level, and anything underground always flooded. Secondly, they very rarely even HAD tornadoes. I said, "What are you talking about?! There have been several just since I've been here!" He said, "Well, we didn't really have any before you came." Very funny.
One day, we were over at Grandmother's. We were discussing tornadoes, probably because we had just had another one, and she said, "You know, come to think of it, we never really had tornadoes before you moved here." Thanks.
We had many tornadoes while I lived there. And we were like sitting ducks, hoping and praying nothing would hit the house.
Years later, when the kids were old enough to notice if I was upset, and the weather would get bad, Evan would be pacing from The Weather Channel over to look out the front windows (looking just like his grandpa, my dad). I'd have to sit there and act like nothing was wrong, everything was fine, to try and keep things calm, when I would have preferred to be screaming and crying. Not fun! I guess it worked.
I hate tornadoes. I'm glad they're not much of a problem around here. Still, I need to move home.