Shelter From The Storm

It does’t matter how many times you go through it, a tornado is always a scary situation. Last night was no exception. Throughout the day I kept reading about a storm heading our way, from as far away as Iowa(or Idaho, I get them mixed up.) Rain, hail, thunder, lightning, and damaging winds were all in this system, with winds reaching 100 miles per hour. I heard that and was genuinely taken aback. I mean, Jesus, that’s some strong wind.

Anyways, my worthless weather app on my phone was saying 60% chance of storms around 7pm, but that was it. No definite bad weather in the forecast, so I figured we’d be okay. My son was at band practice at the high school, while my 17-year old daughter went with a friend to get her nails done. My wife and my oldest and I ate dinner and watched some TV. One thing about yesterday was it was extremely humid. I figured as a precaution I’d go out and clear the gutters in case we got those torrential downpours. After about five minutes I was ready to go back in. My wife said she needed to go get gas and didn’t want to wait till we picked our son up at 9pm, in case the weather took a turn. I drove with her 5 miles to the station and noticed some changes in the weather. Wind was picking up and the sky was growing increasingly dark to the west.

As we headed back home the cell phone went off with a buzzing with a weather emergency alert. We were in a tornado warning for the next 15 minutes. The sky was getting increasingly dark and I could feel something in the pit of my stomach. We got home as quickly as we could and made our way to the basement. Our oldest was already in the studio on the couch hanging out with the dog. My mom had called to warn us about the weather(as she has for the last 24 years.) I had to go to bathroom so I did my thing and as I was walking towards the basement I noticed the trees outside. They were twisting and turning like twigs. I also saw the embers blowing from my Weber grill. I’d grilled some brats and dogs a couple hours earlier and I immediately saw visions of the garage catching fire. Unfortunately nothing I could do about that. Shit had officially hit the fan.

I made my way to the basement and we began the waiting game. All of us on our phones watching various weather reports. We could see outside from the two basement windows, the sky going dark-gray to charcoal to green and then to yellow. The electricity flickered and went out once for about 30 seconds, but that was it. The radar showed the tornado was spotted about 4 miles north of us and was making a b-line across the county. Rain had picked up, as had the wind, and we could see the trees dancing like mad from our hole in the ground vantage point. Our dog was manic, half ready to play and half ready to hide under the coffee table. He eventually settled with an army crawl under the table.

With the power still on, I did what I do best and put on a record. Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians seemed like a good choice for calm. The hypnotic nature of the piece seemed like a nice antidote to the madness Mother Nature was reigning down on us. I felt an instant calm and relief as the music crept up into my ears. It was a welcome reprieve from the twisted guts and panic I’d been wrangling in my brain since that car ride northeast to get petrol in my wife’s car.

Steve Reich has always had a calming effect on me. I bought Music For 18 Musicians back in the winter of 2013. It’s a winter album. The nature of the music and looping and loping piano, voices, and woodwinds were right at home amidst the seclusion of the Polar Vortex we experienced that winter. The blanket of snow and the arctic cold front seemed to welcome Reich’s experimental classical piece into its arms. The Midwestern twister swirling a mile or two above was no different, really. Even in the chaos of the balmy August storm, Steve Reich put at least my brain at ease.

The storm settled after about 40 minutes. It would occasionally pick up after the initial roll thru, but the worst of it passed. And fortunately only a few limbs were lost. Nothing major happened, at least in our neck of the universe.

My wife and I left for town to pick up our son from band practice. The sky was a very strange glow of pink hues and hazy quiet. We had to turn around at one point due to a limb hanging on a power line, low enough that the roadway was impacted. Despite the debris and the Mandy-esque look of the landscape it was rather peaceful. There seemed to be a fight between the impending darkness of the evening and the light trying to stick around for awhile longer, as if it felt it was slighted due to the overcast skies earlier in the evening.

As a kid inclement weather scared me. It was off to the basement to wait for impending doom while my mom looked worried and offered a snack to eat while Mother Nature plotted our demise. We never climbed the roof to watch one roll in like a lot of morons folks do. No tornado parties or T-Storm bangers in our neck of the woods. We give Mother Nature her well due respect, awe, and fear. I’ve been through several tornadoes in my 46 years, but fortunately never seriously hurt by them. We’ve lost trees and had some property damage, but no Palm Sundays in my life thankfully.

Last night was nothing. It was more bark than bite, though it barked pretty good for about thirty minutes or so. I’ll always have equal amounts of awe and dread when it comes to Mother Nature and the Midwestern storm. I feel you need both to survive.

At least long enough for the next big one.

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