So I’ve never TECHNICALLY been IN a tornado. But I’ve been close enough to know I want NO PART OF IT. Tornadoes terrify me – worse than spiders. If I have to go hide in a closet because it is hailing and the sky is a wicked green color, I’ll be the one underneath a blanket, clinching my knees to my chest, rocking side to side and singing kumbayah.
At least with a hurricane, you know its coming. An earthquake…we know where the fault lines are. A volcano…we can SEE the thing – and it tends to put out a lot of smoke before the lava starts flowing. Not tornadoes…not those lovely forces of nature. Those bastards just APPEAR out of NOWHERE. No warning. No time to process what’s happening. The weather radio just blasts on and says with its urgent computerized voice, “TAKE COVER NOW!” There are no advance warnings like, “Attention people. A tornado is coming. Make sure you get yourself decent just in case you wind up on TV and bring an extra few pillows, this ones gonna be a doozy.” We don’t have a chance to compile a suitcase of must-haves, grab a few pictures, fill up on gasoline…with a tornado it is duck and cover. Save your ass.
My fear of tornadoes started before I was out of the second grade. My mom was driving my brothers and I home from a picture session at Olan Mills. I had my cute little outfit on, hair braided just like I wanted it. We were in our blue Toyota van, everyone chummy, happy to be going home. It started raining…no big deal. Then it started hailing and my chumminess started to fade with each twhack of hail on the windshield. I looked out the left window of the van and little saplings were bring ripped from the earth. Now I’m scrambling around in my seat, craning my neck to see out the back window.
No such luck. It was hailing so hard we couldn’t see anything.
A huge tree fell across the road, barely missed by outrace-the-tornado-mom.
That about did it for me. I’d had enough and I wanted out. I started screaming for my mom to stop the car. The only response I got back was, “WHERE, JESSICA? WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO STOP?!?!” She never took her eyes off the road when she answered me. Truth was, there wasn’t anywhere to stop. We were on a two lane road with trees. No concrete havens or underground cellars within miles. It was the trees, the tornado and us.
By nothing short of a miracle we made it home in one piece but that incident scarred me for life. I walked inside, entire body shaking, and tried to turn on a light.
It didn’t come on. The power was out.
I just started shrieking, “The power is OUT! We have NO ELECTRICITY!”
My mom took one look at me and said, “Jessica, SHUT UP!” She had about had it with me and my drama. She was just relieved she managed to get us all home in one piece. We found out later on the news that a tornado basically swirled itself RIGHT DOWN THE ROAD WE WERE DRIVING ON. We were just barely ahead of it.
Tornadoes randomly popping up around me didn’t end there. I have no idea why people live in Tornado Alley. It’s a game of chance every time a storm rolls through.
Incident #2: Driving home from a basketball game late at night and the hail begins, the winds pick up and I again beg to stop somewhere. My mom kept driving and we beat the tornado again.
Incident #3: Driving to meet someone for a work-related purpose BY MYSELF and all I see are greenish, swirling clouds above me and trees at a 90 degree angle. The hail came and I had no idea where the road ended and the ditch began. I thought I was done for. I somehow made it out of that one without any physical damage.
Incident #3: Tim jolts me out of bed and says, “GET MADDIE AND THE GIRLS DOWNSTAIRS NOW!” He takes off and then I hear things hitting walls and the floor and who knows what else. I take one look outside, see the clouds, know we’re in trouble and go into survival mode. I throw the cats into carriers and shove Maddie down the stairs to meet Tim, who has just emptied the entire contents of the coat closet into the living room. Tim, Maddie, the girls and I crowd into the newly emptied closet, Maddie giddy, thinking it is a game, me cowering in the corner and Tim checking the weather on a cell phone while a tornado hits a few miles down the street.
I am so terrified that it has almost become a fascination. I watch as many documentaries and movies and TV shows about tornadoes as I can find. If one’s coming, I want to know what to do and when to do it. No catching me with my pants down. I won’t even take a shower if there is a chance of bad weather. I’m not going to be caught with shampoo in my hair, running to the closet with nothing but a towel and soap dripping from my hair into my eyes.
I’ll be the person they interview who looks like they just stepped out of a photo shoot. The reporter will take one look at me and say, “Isn’t that your HOUSE over there, scattered for miles? HOW is it even POSSIBLE you look like THAT?!”
And I’ll just give him a dazzling smile, hand on my hip and say in a breathy voice, “I just know how to prepare.” And wink into the camera.