Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tornadoes in Missouri

The news tonight of tornadoes in Missouri brings flashbacks of huddling in the damp, dark dugout basement under my house at Terrapin Station listening to the siren screaming and trying to comfort the frightened animals. I had a system when I lived there. It started with noticing the greenish air and the strange sky and the feeling that there was a “tornado comin’ on.”

Then the preparations. TV on, volume up. Cats in their carrying crates, dogs on leashes and ready to go. My “kit” in a handy-to-carry tool tote with water, phone, radio, snack, book, crossword. A trip outside to unlock the cellar door and open it up for the difficult descent into the pit. The siren was located right at the end of my street and at the very first beep, we were in action. One cat carrier in each hand on the first trip, back for one dog and the emergency kit. Finally the last dog. My 85 pound lab had to be wrestled down the steps.

Then we would wait it out. The voice of the TV announcer with the names of the towns as the storm advanced would come down through the furnace grate in the floor. Le Cygne, Archie, Butler, Appleton City. Sometimes I could hear the answering machine pick up the phone and the voice of my daughter asking if I was okay. It times of emergency, cell phones often didn’t work so sometimes I was disconnected from the world.

Still I was lucky to have a storm shelter at my own home. Many homes did not have basements and some of my neighbors had to drive to the Health Department to take shelter in the basement there. In my five years there, I was fortunate that no tornado touched down but I had several very scary moments down in that storm cellar.

Now I live out of the path of tornadoes but in the shadow of Mt. Hood, the 4th most potentially dangerous volcano in the country. I don’t have a basement anymore and there is no warning siren at the end of my street.


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