Jul
02
2012

  Our Straight Tornado

I haven't been able to post since we lost power Friday night, and as far as I know it's still out. I am not home right now.

I'm taking the time to tell my story, before I forget the details. Mostly for my own benefit, since I forget all kinds of stuff if I don't write it down.

On Friday evening, I worked in the garden from 8-9 pm. Max was asleep so I had free time and a little daylight left. It was still hot and humid, but not as scorching as it was before the sun went behind the mountain. I pulled the entire bed of radishes up to make some red radish relish, and once the bed was cleared I planted some more of my gift seedlings-- a cherry tomato plant and four more peppers. I planted another pepper plant in the pot that previously held my bush cucumber which didn't live.

I went in at dark, and got a shower. I was drying off when I heard the wind howling outside. I went to the window, and sure enough there was a storm. I thought it was very strange since there was no sign of a storm approaching when I was outside; I can usually see them coming over the mountain from a distance, but there was nothing to see that evening, and I was looking for one hoping for an excuse to not water the plants.

The storm seemed to get stronger by the minute, and the next time I went to the window, I felt the window shaking beneath my hands. Not shaking fast like a shiver, but kind of pulsing like a heartbeat in time with the wind. It was dark by this time, but during the frequent lightning flashes I looked to see if I could see any "hooks" coming down from the clouds, because I know those have the potential to turn into a tornado. But I didn't see any. I DID see a huge flash on the side of the mountain, it looked like a bright white flash of magnesium the size of our giant maple tree, although who knows at that distance. Then in its place was a flashing red light. I presumed that lightning had just taken out one of the electric towers. I watched a few seconds more, but when the window kept moving It dawned on me that I should probably get away from the window. The power was flickering by this point.

I went downstairs to get some matches and candles, which was good since the power went out for good while I was down there. The wind was really howling by this point, and I did hear a weird "freight train" sort of undertone at times, which is how tornados are often described. I was discussing with T what we should do, and he sent me upstairs to check on the kids while he rounded up some flashlights. They were not where they should have been since W rearranges everything in the house to suit himself, in places that bewilder anyone but a three year old. The storm wasn't so loud from the boys' room, it's on the more sheltered side of the house. But while I was upstairs I heard a loud crash from downstairs and the sound of loud wind and rain. From the top of the stairs I asked T, "What the hell?!?" and he yelled up that the bay window in the dining room had blown out. I brought him some tools from upstairs, and decided to get the kids into a windowless room ASAP. All this is in the dark, since the power was out, although I did have a small candle and T had found a flashlight.

While T fixed the window (by nailing it to the frame to hold it in place), I put W's bedspread on their bathroom floor and moved both boys in there. I was in there for maybe 10 minutes or so, but I didn't like the sound of the wind from there. It sounded weird on the roof. I wasn't sure why it was so loud, and thought maybe we had lost a few shingles and rain was dripping through or something. But when T came in to check on us, I told him to get the downstairs bathroom ready for us. Actually, I told him to clear out the pantry, since that is the only windowless room downstairs, but he came back up and said there was just too much stuff that could fall on us and nixed that plan. So THEN I opted for the bathtub. He put his heavy sleeping bag in there, and we each carried a boy down. I was in the tub with them, so I'd be ready to cover them if the house started to shake (I had heard that happens during a tornado).

We could hear the wind at all times, but I was surprised that I didn't hear any trees snapping. The trees sound like gunshots when they break during most storms, and there are so many trees around a storm of any decent strength will bring at least one or two down. I was actually able to doze off while in the tub. T was sitting on the floor next to us. When it sounded like it was all over, we all went back upstairs to our regular beds.

We didn't see the damage until Saturday morning, and there was quite a bit.

Maple Shade Park won't be quite as shady from now on, and we can't go near it until we get a tree guy out there. We lost one side of that tree, and there are dangerously large branches hanging aloft that could easily kill someone unlucky enough to be standing there when they fall. The oak in front of the house got topped, and the top of that tree was also down in the park.

A large cedar at the property line was also split in two, and maybe 25 to 30 percent of our mimosa tree also blew off. The wind blew the floor mat up on the tractor, which doesn't sound like much but it's "permanently" mounted to the frame. A rain barrel made it to the back yard from the front. Max's porch play saucer was carried off the porch, through the garden, and out to the other side into the driveway. A boxed hammock went from the front porch all the way to the playground. There is just stuff all over the place.

The most perplexing thing is the way the flagpole is down. I saw it lying on the ground from a distance, and assumed it had snapped. But when we went to inspect it, it was still firmly in the ground. It was just BENT. Ninety degrees. It had W's windsock on it but no flags. I don't know how the wind caught something so narrow. And bent it right at the ground, that thing isn't even sticking up at a slight angle, the entire pole is flattened solid to the ground like a bulldozer ran over it.

When we lose power, we also lose water since our well pump is electric. T called around and found a friend who had power and was out of town for the day who gladly offered up her house for us to hang out in. Which was really lovely, since it was literally a hundred degrees out. We went back home that evening to power still out. We opened the windows and it was cool enough to get some sleep, but not cool enough to cool the house overnight. Sunday we awoke to still no power.

To be continued.