May 19, 2013: Tornado Evacuation of 2003

In the Midwest, we all know that our ordinary summer days can quickly turn into tornado scares with greenish colored skies, blowing winds, and screaming sirens. When I was growing up, our shelter was a cellar with access only from an outside door. For me, storm sirens bring back flashbacks of my dad carrying me through ripping winds as I held on for dear life.

We were greeted with darkness and the smell of moist dirt. The sounds of whipping branches filled our ears while Mom attempted to mute out the frightening noises by turning up the volume on our small portable radio; our only outlet of communication from the outside world. We sat in the dark, staring at jars of canned vegetables lining the dirt walls until hearing the "all clear" signal.

Although the threat of tornadoes are just as scary in today's times, I believe I minimize it a bit more with the convenient access of my comfy basement and the various real time updates available on our big screens and smart phones. My kids haven't experienced my many stormy nights in the cellar, but they do know that their cushy basement is the place to be when the sirens blare.

Zach, my ever-responsible oldest son, performs brilliantly in evacuation situations such as these. As much as he doesn't like the stereotype of being the "responsible one", he can't run away from his genetic make-up. A favorite story I have of Zach demonstrating his innate ability to "run the show" is his first tornado evacuation.

On this particular night, I was home alone with the boys. It was stormy. But with no immediate threats of severe weather, I tucked the boys in for bed. Now is where I need to confess a bit on a weakness of mine. I like my sleep. Once I go to bed, I like to enjoy a deep sleep until my morning alarm rings when I hit the snooze button at least three times before waking up.

My memory of this particular stormy night was Zach pulling my arm in the middle of the night while begging me to get out of bed. After a fog of following him into the basement, my next recollection was sitting on a bean bag with my dog on my lap. Next to me were Ben and Grant; sleepily removed from their beds by their older brother.

At the TV with his orthodontic head gear in place was Zach, finding the best station for tornado updates. Turning to me as he adjusted the volume, Zach gave me a minor scolding. "Mom, the sirens went off. How did you not hear that? We are in a tornado warning for the next forty-five minutes."

"Oh"  I answered as I looked around the basement. The realization then came that Zach had single handed evacuated the house, including me, to the safety of the basement.  There were no tornadoes that night as we all went back to the comforts of our beds at the end of the tornado warning.

This last Saturday I worried about Zach at my house alone during a tornado warning. I called the neighbors to ask them to check on him. He later called to inform me that he was already in the basement of his dad's house keeping an eye on his brothers. Yes, of course you are, Zach. What was I thinking?


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