Close call #1

July 22, 2008

So, on Sunday night, I went to bed after a lovely weekend of all things summer–trip to the Farmer’s Market, iced coffee at the cafe, fresh peaches, a blockbuster movie–with cooling night air and the sound of crickets coming through my open window. Several hours later, I woke up to the sound of wind. And thunder, and rain, but mostly the wind. The power had gone out, so the house alternated between pitch black and greenish white from the intense lightning. I tried to look out the window, but I couldn’t see past the curtain of rain being blown sideways by the wind. But I couldn’t hear the rain, then, I could only hear the wind, which was getting louder and louder. I remembered that I had left the living room windows open to get the cool air at night, so I walked out to shut them. I put my hand on the first window, and I could feel it shaking . I could feel the gusts of air coming in it, soaking me with rain and pushing me backwards. That’s when I forgot about the windows. I went back to my room, put on flip flops, remembered that I had dropped a hoody sweatshirt at the end of my bed, and put that on too. Then I got the cats, first the big one who is scared of everything and then the smaller one, one in each arm, and I headed for the basement as fast as I could. The smaller cat jumped out of my arms and ran down the stairs of her own accord, but the bigger one started yowling and lunging out of my arms to stick her claws in the wooden railing on the way down. I had to stop and pry her feet away from the railing to make it all the way down.  Meanwhile, the wind is yet louder and the door is shaking in its frame.

As I’ve blogged about earlier, I’m not a big panicker about this stuff, but I do take it seriously. It was only when I was sitting on the basement steps (to prevent any cats from running back upstairs) that I realized that I was shaking. I had absolutely no desire to make a return trip up the stairs to grab something else valuable. No way. My cell phone and glasses had been right next to the bed, but I didn’t think to grab either of those. So all I could do was wait, and listen for the sound of something coming, at which point I would have tried to grab the cats again and get under the stairwell itself.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. There were no tornadoes in our vicinity (one funnel cloud 50 miles away that never touched down), although there were straight line winds up to 100mph. I will say this: I never used to be able to imagine what the freight train sound would be if a tornado came, but now I think I can. Imagine it. We lost power for six hours, which I guess is a long time for Iowans, but nothing for me. It definitely shook me up a bit–I had a hard time falling asleep last night, in part I think b/c I was nervous that it was going to happen again. Which it might any time during the summer. But next time I’ll be more ready.

After it was much quieter, I did go back up for my cellphone, and called D to check the map. He confirmed that there had a been a severe thunderstorm, and that it had formed quickly. The weather service called a severe storm warning at 4:05am, and I was probably in the basement by 4:20.

As I calmed down, I realized that I really really need a better plan next time. Flashlights are useless in the closet. I had no time to feel around in the closet. I now have one by my bed and one already in the basement, along w/ a change of clothes and the hand crank radio. The cat cages are down there now too. And oh yeah, I’m going to find out what my renter’s insurance needs in the way of proof of ownership, so that there is never a temptation to go grab stuff. Not that there is when you’re really scared.

Anyway, if there’s anything of universal value in my experience here, I would say it’s just that I can confirm that when things get scary, you don’t think as you normally would and you don’t have much time. I only managed to do what I had run through in my head many times in the past when thinking about tornadoes: put something on your feet and over your arms, get the cats. Like I said, I forgot my glasses and my cellphone even though they were right next to me, b/c they were not part of the plan. Have a plan. Practice it mentally. You might need it.

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