Thursday, March 29, 2007


We had a passel of tornados roar through the state last night. Last night was truly one of those "Dark and stormy nights." There were at least tornado warnings in 8 different counties in Kansas at one point. Thankfully, none were in our county.

I've spent my whole life living in"Tornado Alley." Tornado's don't really scare me, but I do have a tremendous respect for them. I've never been in a tornado, but I've seen first hand the destruction.

When I was 9, a tornado hit my grandparents home. I remember that night, we lived about 20 miles away, and the sky was a funny shade of green. I remember that--the funny looking sky. We got a phone call fairly early in the evening, it was for my dad. I remember him saying "Mom and Dad got hit by a tornado." and then he took off for their place. They were OK.

They'd just got home from town and Grandma looked out the west window and said to Grandad, "Dale, the garage just blew away." They didn't have time to get to the basement, instead, they took shelter in their small kitchen in front of the refrigerator. A 17 year old neighbor, rode his horse up to their house and found them once the storm was over, because all the phone lines were down. They were fine, just cuts and bruises. He helped them pull the pickup away from the car (where the tornado left them), and they drove to town, to my Uncle Dale's house. Then, they started calling the family. And, being tough, ranching/farming folk, they went back out to the farm to check things out.

We went to the farm the next day. I was really scared about my Grandma and Grandad, I knew they were OK and weren't hurt, but I was scared and really worried until I saw them for myself. I remember driving up the hill and seeing that the barn was gone. The garage was gone. The well house was gone. And the house, well, it was still standing, but was not the strong, sturdy, secure house it had always been. I remember getting out of the pickup and then I just started to cry. I sobbed and sobbed and Grandma just hugged my close and kept telling me that it was just a house and that everything important was OK--that she and Grandad were OK. She showed me her cuts and bruises and just held me until I calmed down.

We then walked through the house. While it was still standing, 1/4 of the roof was gone. Where my Dad's bedroom had been, there wasn't a roof. As you walked in and out of the upstairs bedrooms, and towards the outside walls, you could see clear down to the first floor. The front and back walls of the house had been pulled away from the upstairs floor--just pulled out. The side walls were supporting the upper floor. There was debris everywhere. All the Aunts and Uncles were there, cleaning, and loading up Grandma and Grandad's belongings.

The house was torn down and they moved to town into a new house. No one has lived at the farm since then and my dad now owns that quarter section of ground. It still holds a place very dear to my heart, but isn't the same without the house.

One of my dear friends, Debbie, lived a mile away from Grandma and Grandad. (It was her brother who rode to the house to check on them.) The tornado came towards their house after hitting my grandparents. Unlike my grandparents, their family made it to the basement, and their house wasn't touched. And yet, the next summer, we were at camp during a thunderstorm, and poor Debbie simply freaked out. She was convinced there would be another tornado, and it would hit us at camp. She was really traumatized.

I've only gone to a basement twice--once was when I was in college in Texas the other time I was 32 and had a 4 month old baby. Oops, gotta change that to three times now, cause last summer, while at the fairgrounds, we took shelter under the grandstand. That was probably the time I got the most nervous--not scared, just nervous.

I didn't actually see a tornado until I was 32. I did go to the basement with the kids, but, after a few minutes, Kevin (who, like all KS men, was outside watching) called me upstairs to watch too. We, with the kids, stood outside and watched the tornado until it dissipated.

Tornados are a fact of nature. We who live on the Great Plains don't have to deal with hurricanes or earthquakes, just tornados. They don't scare me, but I'm really glad we didn't have to deal with one last night.

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