Gloom hovered over stretches of farmland far west in the distance as it inched it’s way closer with a thunderous roar. The sun shone down on me as I carried on with my work picking green beans in the garden.
I caught flashes of lightening through the corner of my eye. The storm was steadily making its way east. I hollered over to my daughter who was sitting in the screen porch. If I should get struck by lightening be sure to put the vegetables in the refrigerator, I joked.
This is when the town warning siren sounded off.
The 1930’s style warning siren is used as a form of communication. Out here, in the center of nowhere the National Weather Service’s alert is no more than a delayed response.
Every Monday at noon the siren goes off as a test to make certain it’s in perfect working order. There are tornado shelters on each strip of the town square with space for 50 people. There’s a tornado shelter at the only school serving all grades k-12, with more than enough space to accommodate the entirety of the town population.
I have yet to experience a tornado where there is enough time to get there even though it’s a mere 0.2 miles from our house. We have a tornado shelter in our cellar.
The room is 10 ft X 3 ft acting as a hallway of safety. A shelf stocked with nonperishable food sits on the wall. Gallons of drinking water line the floor beneath it. We have provisions such as first aid, lanterns, an old school FM/AM radio and a CB (Citizens Band) radio to call out for help if needed.
The thing about tornadoes is that they can’t be predicted. There is little warning. It builds up inside the most devastating of storms and thrashes until it breaks free, and once it does you’re lucky if you have minutes to remove yourself from its path. When the siren wails you immediately take shelter.
There’s an undoubtedly specific rhythm to a tornado. First comes the darkness and with the darkness comes stillness and tranquility. Then comes the giant, pounding his giant feet against the earth, each step drawing him closer, causing you to become fearful of the walls as they rattle.
The sky screams with tinges of shaded orange and green, and when there is no rain or wind you know what’s coming. All you can do is wait for it. As the pressure builds so does the wrath of the giant.
A bit of relief sets in once you hear the doors to the house above you begin to repeatedly fly open and slam shut. It means the giant has arrived and will be gone again just as swift.
The rain batters. The walls leak. Blinding bursts of flashing light peer through the cracks. The tiny darkened space where you and your family hide feels serene as the world is struck with a vengeance outside the compound of your refuge.
It strikes emphatically and when it’s over you emerge to bear witness to the merciless cruelty and damage. You see the giant storm headed east in route to attack the city. You release a deep breath, grateful you’ve somehow by the grace of God, evaded its destruction.
The town is left in the dark with no electricity for hours to come. As the sun sets so does the realization of what’s happened.