Kismet was at work when the good folks at the Weather Channel dubbed this week to be "Tornado Week
". All weekend and into the week, the network planned to air episodes of "Storm Story" and highlight the destructive and deadly nature of tornadoes. On both Saturday and Sunday evenings, their scheduled "Tornado Week" programming took on greater meaning when it became peppered with interruptions of actual tornado warnings.
Saturday night, we responded to the tornado warnings with what has become standard practice - move the birds, the radio, the laptop, and the dogs down into the basement to wait out the storm. We were lucky that night, as the cell that had been headed directly for us dissipated right before it hit. "Just wait," said the weatherman on the radio. "Just wait, until Sunday
. We are expecting some very severe weather tomorrow."
Sunday started off overcast and a little rainy. The weather seemed stable, but the radar told a different story - a large cell of red was headed directly towards us. We watched as it looked like it would pass us by, then we watched as it looked as though it was coming directly for us. For hours, it seemed, all that we could do was watch and try to predict the cell's path. Finally, came word that a tornado was on the ground.
Up until that point, we had been unsure as to whether the tornado would make it close to our neck of the woods, which resulted into some hesitation in moving the birds into the basement. Over the course of three days, we had to take one of our birds to the vet twice and did not want to increase the stress on her. As such, we were playing the situation conservatively and had only moved the birds as far as the living room, waiting to finally move them downstairs when things got dicey. With the tornado changing direction again and word of a belt of tornadic activity heading towards us, we decided that it was time to make the move.
The basement was substantially colder than the main level of the house, and we were concerned that the birds would catch a chill, especially since we were going to be camping down there for the night. To aid in keeping the birds warm, we set up our dome tent in the basement, aimed the electric heater into the tent, and covered the cages with layers of blankets. From beneath the blanket came a clear whistle, "Peek-eeee-boo". "Peekaboo," I retorted.
With the birds comfortable, we concentrated on moving down other necessities - the dogs' kennels, the radio, the laptop, candles, a few snacks, and a few mementos. I quickly scanned the house for things that we could not replace or would have trouble replacing - our wedding album, my immigration documents, and my passport. Closing the basement door behind me, I wondered if it would be the last time that I would see my house intact.
There was little else that we could do, so we decided to try to get some sleep before the next wave of tornadoes hit. Lying on the concrete floor, I could feel the cold soak into my sleeping bag and into my body. As uncomfortable and as tired as I was, I was thankful for the pain. The pain kept me awake and alert. Checking the National Weather Service's radar, we could see that there was a line of red extending from Texas up to Michigan and it was quickly moving towards the north east. It was coming and all that we could do was sit and wait. Around three in the morning the announcement came that yet another tornado was on the ground in the already tornado ravaged state capital. Later, we would learn that it was not a second tornado, but destructive winds.
A few more hours of rain, wind, and hail and both the storm and the morning finally broke. Although things were a little wet, there was not much damage to our property. While buildings collapsed and roofs were ripped off a mere twenty minutes away, we emerged unscathed. We moved the birds and the pups back upstairs and cranked up the heat. Happy to finally be safe and warm, we began to count our blessings.