Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Would You React to an "Imminent Extreme" Tornado ? My Tornado Story

1:07 PM: Loud sirens interrupt reading at the 3 Layers Cafe. All cell phones buzzed with the following text:  11/17/2014 Imminent extreme alert Tornado Warning in this area til 2:00 PM EST. Take shelter now. Check local media - NWS. 

It went ignored. Maybe we get too many warnings that go unfounded, too many numbing "tests" of the emergency sirens. Maybe I'm stupid.

Anonymous First Coast News photo of the storm. It looks like The Nothing from Neverending Story.

1:20 PM: Massive storm clouds roll in as we drive home. A chill cuts through the former toasty 75 degrees. There's a sonic boom as a lightning bolt "sizzles" to our right. I've never seen lightning so close, holding, flickering like a dying bulb

1:37 PM: I call work to let them know I'll be late. I watch the windows, I start to think it's probably safe to drive after all.

1:40 PM: Nature roars. The rainfall is so thick you can't see anything but grey outside. I say, "Oh, HELL NO, I ain't going out there." Lightning flickers all around, high winds split trees. The storm tosses anything in its path with seemingly deliberate fury. The apartment lights go on and off.

1:47 PM: In mere minutes the storm's finished with my street. AJ and I turn on the local news to get an update. The tornado was slicing through Jacksonville like a knife. Its path is ironically the same one as my drive to work...

"5 minutes, we missed it by 5 minutes. It makes you question your [my] agnosticism, doesn't it? If we'd had left a few minutes later we'd have been out there in it." 

He holds me on the couch and describes how he would have protected me if the storm was any worse.

"Sorry, I'd have to push you to the ground in the hallway and throw myself on top of you to keep you safe. But I'd try to tuck the right side of my head under your ass!"

AJ has a metal plate in the right side of his head from a football injury and understandably takes lightning very seriously. One strike and sleep. Forever.

2:10 PM:  There's water pooling at the bottom of the stairwell, it "washed" a box of vintage goods I had near the door. Luckily all ceramics. We step outside to survey the damage:

The nearby corner store owner (I live above it) and a customer step out. The glass-front store must have had a retina monitor-clear view of the weather carnage.

"I couldn't see the house in front of us. I've never seen anything that before! Ever! Never!" The agitated customer keeps walking down the side walk. 

He stops and calls to us, "Come LOOK AT THIS!" he points to a large tree split in half. The new chill in the air dropped temperatures to the fifties or lower.

2:15 PM: Traffic lights were off on the way to work. I was tempted to take my camera out and photograph random damages I see along the way, but keep driving.

10:46 PM: A loud electronic buzz goes off, it sounds like an electric shock mixed with a gun shot. Like an electric-type Pokemon attack. The power goes off, ceasing my customer e-mail answering and blog post editing. Marianne and I scream and run to each other.

10:48 PM: Every time the lights go off we half-joke about our apocalypse survival plan. "We have enough food for a little while before we have to start looting for supplies," I joke. "The only entrance is the narrow stairwell unless they use grappling hooks to scale the walls and break through the windows. We can throw things at looters if they try to come up. God knows there's plenty of shit in here to throw at them."

"They're too stupid to figure that [grappling hooks] out." Marianne responds. "They" is our neighbors and corner store shoppers, who's cat-calls are a daily annoyance to ignore.

Marianne and I watch too many zombie shows/movies and play too many violent video games...

10:50 PM: We settle into Marianne's room to read by the light of her laptop and small Glade 2-in-one Hawaiian Breeze and Vanilla Passionfruit candle. I start to feel a calm drowsiness, the darkness increasing melatonin levels. I think, "This is the way it's supposed to be." I recall when frequent power outages in Italy bought us closer together as a family. We'd sit on the balcony and watch our lovely Neapolitan neighborhood, watch the sky change from light to dark or play Uno by candlelight. I chuckle remembering the bat that flew at my mom's head on one such night, tangling in her hair.

10:55 PM: I consider making a nightly ritual of reading by candlelight and avoiding using lights, like nature intended. When humans had healthier sleeping and less stress. Energy bill savings imminent.

Thoughts: Living in the south east, this isn't the first big storm I've seen. I've watched hurrican force winds uproot a might willow. This F1 tornado was far from the worst it could be, though a couple of roofs were blown off and fallen trees damaged some cars and a local trailer home. I'm grateful we weren't caught out in the storm. Today is chilly but bright, refreshed after the storm. No one was hurt, loved ones are safe. Take all The Things, storm, but not our people.

My roomie and kitty, safe and sound.

I had other plans for today's post but the experience stuck in my mind; demanding to be shared. I'm not scared and wasn't at the time until the electric buzz that sounded like our apartment was on fire. I'm thinking of the biggest take-away from this experience. Perhaps...listen to the damn severe storm alerts when you hear them, this ain't for play? Yep, that's what I'll take away from this.

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  1. Terrifying!

    Years ago I was sitting on the porch with my husband when a freak lightning storm suddenly came through town and split a tree, about 100 feet down the street, right down the middle. The sound the lightning made was like nothing I had ever heard before---like hundreds of tin cans rattling and buzzing. We ran inside and jumped under the covers! Glad you are safe. These things always make me want to stock up on apocalypse gear.

    1. Same here with the apocalypse gear. It makes you realize how unprepared we are for when "real shit" goes down. I don't even have any oil lamps for the dark in hurricane-country. Yep, that's a good description for the lightning sound, the sound is severely unnerving.

  2. Scary! Apparently your ass now serves dual purpose - 1. To look hot, 2. To protect your boyfriends head lol. I would highly recommend getting a hurricane lantern that is powered by one of those gigantic batteries. we have one, cost about $40 but every time the power comes out, it comes in so handy! Glad you guys are ok, I lived in tornado territory (Edmonton) for many years and many people died in that city from weather events. Now I just have to deal with the odd windstorm and Earthquakes (not felt one yet but they say the big one is coming as we are on the end of the San Andreas Fault

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, will look into one of those. The power goes out often in Florida, when will I learn? People dying from the weather events sounds horrible, we were lucky!

  3. Wow. Scary. I love watching weather. Thunderstorms and such but the possibilities that they bring are truly awesome. Glad you are safe.

  4. Glad you all are safe! Tornados are freaky. I live in the midwest, but not in tornado alley, so every spring there are some. One year we had a similar warning and the tornado hit literally three blocks away from my house. what was I doing? no not hiding in basement like a rational person, I was in our half story (aka attic room) trying to wrangle a cat. Never again! If that cat doesn't come she's on her own I say.

    1. Aw, at least you were trying to get her to safety, but I'm with you there. It's you or her in that case!

  5. Wow! I am totally identifying with your story here. I live in the Midwest, about 3 miles from the F4 tornado that devastated Washington, IL nearly 1 year ago today. It's such a frightening ordeal. The best we can do is be aware and be prepared!

    1. Sounds terrifying! I'm lucky we don't get them much here, but then there's the hurricanes..you're right. It's important to be aware and prepared.

  6. Sheesh!!! I'm so terrified of tornadoes AND I live in a mobile home. So when I hear word of a tornado I put on clothes, shoes, pack a little clothes for everyone, toiletries and snacks and pretty much wait for the signal.

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