Hail and High Winds

The mention of it constricts my breathing and quickens my pulse. Bad weather frightens me, as well as fascinates me. All that power. Enough to make sane people stop what they’re doing and track red on radar coming at them.

When my children were little and we lived in a house with a long hallway and a cedar closet, many times as a storm approached, I yanked them up and stuck them in that dark enclosure pressed against and between hanging clothes, poor little guys probably scared to pieces and trembling as they were instilled with the fear of lightning and thunder and worried about their mama, out watching the dark clouds roil. It was a far cry from my childhood when my friend Mary Sue’s mother would make us sit on a foam rubber pillow during a thunderstorm because we’d be safe then.  We could still play paperdolls and draw pictures.

One afternoon when my kids were elementary age, one was in school two blocks from home and one at a private academy twenty miles away,  and a tornado was headed straight across I-20 toward us all. I couldn’t go get my younger one because even at dismissal time, they locked the school down, and with the older one, there was nothing I could do but picture him in that flat prefab aluminum building with twisting winds surrounding him. I sat on my den floor and watched TV radar, choked down some breaths, called some other mothers for support, realized that all the children would be huddled in the halls praying, and when the storm passed, all I could think to do was call the town’s police station and ask, “Can you please tell me if the academy is still standing?” It was.

Then came the night of a bad storm and straight-line tornadic winds and sirens going off, when my son who was home from college got up in the middle of the night with me, and he watched the black sky out the back door, while I kept watch out the front and the TV showed the inching red…and my husband slept soundly. That storm blew my fence down and laid a corkscrew willow across my patio and uprooted my neighbor’s hundred-year-old hackberry, as my child, my dog, and I huddled in my tiny bathroom…and my husband slept soundly.

Then there was the ’98 Nashville tornado, a full day’s outbreak of storms. As I backed out of the driveway to head to work across from Centennial Park where the storm hit, I heard the first alert of the day on the car radio. I pulled back into the garage, went inside and said to my husband who was showering, “We’re in a tornado warning and I’m driving right into it,” and then I left again before he could think to say a word. I only worked mornings, so when the Big One hit, I wasn’t there, but heard tales the following day of how the architects stood at the big glass windows and watched the birds fly backwards.

I’ve watched the movie Twister at least a thousand times. (I do love disaster movies.)

I don’t like it when the Weather Channel says STRONG STORMS for Saturday and when the Main Street Festival folks assign those of us who will be manning a booth a shelter to go to during a tornado warning.

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5 Comments on “Hail and High Winds”

  1. Sherry says:

    When I was in college in southern Missouri, we usually studied for spring finals during tornado warnings with mattresses pushed against the glass doors in the dorm halls. The worst year, my father had driven to town to help me move back home for the summer, and he stayed at a hotel across town. The tornado moved right between us, tore a roof off the grocery store, killed a nice couple in a compact car, and uprooted old oaks in the cemetery. Nasty storm. But Kathy, I canNOT watch Twister! 😉

  2. kathyrhodes says:

    Missouri is under the gun today. That was a nasty storm! You can’t watch Twister??? I love watching storms come in and there’s this part of me that would love to chase them…but then there’s this part also that’s very afraid.

  3. Sherry says:

    It’s fun to watch storms come in here, because we’re close enough to the mountains that tornadoes generally don’t affect us. But we can watch the conditions forming overhead (swirl baby swirl) and heading east to the open plains. I used to have occasional tornado dreams whenever I was particularly anxious. This storm is a doozie. Tie down your awnings!

  4. The only thing I don’t like about coming to Nashville is tornadoes. The house I stay at in east Nashville was one of those hit by the ’98 storm and it always gives me pause. Every time the sky darkens, I start to panic! But everyone who lives in town seems to be fairly blase about it. So I enjoyed reading this post.

  5. Glenda Beall says:

    Kathy, I enjoyed this post about storms and your reaction. I grew up in south west Georgia where thunder storms rolled in every summer afternoon and tornado warnings seemed in effect almost every day. Many times I called my dog and he and I rode out a storm inside the shower of my master bathroom. I was terrified of storms as a child and often climbed in bed with my mother at the first clap of thunder or when the winds grew fierce in the huge oak outside my window.


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