Last Sunday was stormy. We went to the grocery store thinking it had let up a bit, but when we were done we saw the storm had come back with renewed vigor. We got into the car and found the storm intensifying as we drove home… by the time we got home it was buckets of cats and dogs, and because the power had gone out, we couldn’t get into the garage. I fumbled with the manual release on the door, but we finally gave up and went in. My wife carried the baby, I took the groceries. Before we had the groceries put away tornado sirens were going off. We rounded up the cats and headed into the basement for about half an hour.
The sirens stopped, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. We were still without power but managed to keep ourselves busy for a while. I mostly played games on my charged up iPad.
I predicted gloomily the power could be out all night. It was a rough storm and I figured the power was out everywhere. But it came back a few hours later, and we found our email inboxes and voicemail full of people checking on us.
We’re fine, I told them. Thanks for asking. Seemed awfully nice to ask for a simple thunderstorm, however severe.
Then we saw the news. A tornado had ripped right through our neighborhood, coming within a mile of our house. Roofs were taken off of homes, trees uprooted, windows blown out. The twister started just south of the grocery store we’d been at, running a diagonal path northeast across the neighborhood, skipping across the Mississippi River (I learned once that tornadoes can’t cross water — that’s nonsense) and petering out after pummeling more homes on the other side. I’m pretty sure that it touched down at the very moment I was fiddling with the garage door, and was due south when we wnt scampering inside with damp groceries and a confused baby. “Why is it bath outside?” his face seemed to be asking.
We were lucky. Our street is fine. A few blocks south, or a few blocks east, and you see trees down. Gigantic trees, so big that they rip off the earth when they blow over. The park is in ruins. I’ve got a work in progress set in this neighborhood, and a scene in that park — I’ll need to revise to describe the lack of trees, add a passing description of a terrible storm.
Many homes are in ruins. Two people died. Hundreds of herons were wiped out — the toll on wildlife may seem like less than the human toll, but it’s still tragic.
I don’t have a moral or anything to tease out of this. It’s just something that happened, not exactly to me, but frighteningly close.