I knew it was going to storm. It was one of those days when Texans complain about the humidity…and they’re actually right. Usually the humidity they complain about is the kind that makes me shrug a shoulder and “meh,” at them and get the stink eye in return. I’m from a state where humidity and moisture content are ridiculous. It’s like yesterday afternoon, but all the time. A sit-down-in-the-wooden-kitchen-chair-and-have-to-peel-yourself-out-of-it kind of humidity. The air was hot and muggy and not moving anywhere. It felt like tornado weather.
It wasn’t supposed to start until later in the evening, but the line fired up early. It was slow as molasses, though, so really all the meant was that I could look at it every so often as I refreshed all the weather radars and shut off all the NOAA alerts for counties that didn’t even include mine. I eventually convinced myself to go to bed. I was going to be exhausted if I didn’t. Especially if things fired up during the night.
Go ahead and guess what happened.
My heart flew through my chest and up out of my throat every time that NOAA weather radio went off. I’d make sure it wasn’t a tornado, I’d check to see if it was headed my way. Then I’d shut off the lights (if I’d bothered), try to slow my heart rate, and lie back down. Sometimes it would happen three or four times in a row. After time 10 or 12 in about a 5 minute span, I decided that maybe I should just stay up until the line of storms passed. I still had more than half of my night’s sleep ahead of me, and with my insomnia issues, I knew 4 hours would be manageable.
That was when when got our first tornado warning.
I started flying through the house, finding sneakers, grabbing a twin mattress for the closet, convincing the dog to come with me. I took the NOAA radio with me. I took my lap top with me. I cursed myself for cancelling cable – and then changed my mind when I saw I could watch my news station live as long as my internet held out. Mostly, I kept telling the weather gods that Kim and I hadn’t really meant it when we said we were going to chuck a bottle of booze at the next twister in memory of Bill Paxton. Because the tornado the weathermen had issued the warning for? It was headed straight for my house.
There’s nothing quite like that moment, when you realize the exits or mile markers on the highways include your exit (less than a mile from your house), or when they name your intersection on the news, or casually intone the “radar-indicated rotation” is headed straight for the park that you can see two lots over from your back yard. Then the lights start flickering, and your hands shake a little bit more. You start listening for the roar, worrying over it, sure your heart will explode. You wonder if the sweat you’re producing is a symptom of a heart attack – surely it can’t be healthy.
It was the longest half hour of my life. The tornado warning was allowed to expire. Good gravy, that was close! I texted with the girls and made sure they were okay. I checked on Jeff – the other tornado in the area passed by just a couple hundred feet from his house; he watched the power flashes as the transformers blew.
I stayed awake for a few minutes, getting back to “normal” and seeing if I could ever sleep again. I didn’t think I would fall asleep, but I crashed hard, trying to figure out what was going on when my alarm clock went off.
As scary as that was, it hit me again as I drove out of the neighborhood and nearly ended up in the tree that was lying across the road – there were trees and street lights lying helter skelter, a goodish number of them across the road. A yard or two over from my house. That’s a little too close.
Good luck getting me to sleep the next night we have storms in our forecast. Good luck trying to get me to sleep at all.