One thing I miss living in Phoenix, Arizona are the Haboobs. The atmosphere becomes a tinge of orange. The faintest shade of green lightening strikes out in the distance. It’s far enough to appear as an insignificant flash yet close enough to indicate what was coming.
Our cellphones would beep throughout the house with a twenty minute weather warning to get off the roads and indoors before the mountain of dirt would roll in, swallow up the earth and spit it back out as it rolled on.
My children and I would go stand outside in the center of it. Dirt would ricochet off our goggles as the wind forced us back. There’s such beauty inside of a dust storm. There’s a sense of peace and security for our safety within the midst of chaos.
It can be a challenging adjustment to revert from new age technology to the dark ages and that’s exactly what we did when we moved from a big city out into the middle of nowhere.
When we moved to Small Town, Iowa we’d never experienced a tornado before. The house we purchased was built in 1920. In the back of another room in the basement there is a ‘tornado shelter.’
The shelter is 12 ft long and 5 ft wide and enclosed in solid brick. There’s dead bolts on all four sides of the door including one that pins down into the concrete floor. There’s a latch and pad lock above the door knob.
When I tell people we live in Small Town, Iowa I always say it’s in the middle of nowhere because the town itself is. The town is three square miles and is surrounded by farmland with cornfields that touch the ends of the earth. The next nearest small town is twenty miles through farmland and the closest city is forty miles away.
It reminds me of the movie, Cabin in the Woods minus the cabin, woods and ax murder.
The shelter is stocked of necessary provisions. There’s nonperishable foods, cases of water in stacks, blankets, first aid, lanterns, puzzles, books, a deck of cards and face paint.
We also have an AM/FM radio and a Citizens Band (CB) radio. There have been less than a handful of times we’ve been able to follow the storm with data on our cellphones. Most of the time we’re unable to get a signal. There isn’t WiFi or internet in the tornado shelter either. It’s stone age survival.
The radio provides the only tornado information we’ll receive once we’re locked in the shelter and the CB radio is our only contact with the outside world.
The town has an air- raid siren that goes off in the event of any type of emergency, the same as towns had back in the 1940’s during World War II. Every Monday at noon the siren sounds off for twenty seconds as a maintenance test.
The siren screeches and wails for different lengths of time depending on the warning such as a storm, tornado, fire or power outage.
There are no National Weather Warnings sent to our cellphones. We have a volunteer fire department and the siren is the main source of communication for when they’re needed. Cellphone service is too unpredictable out here. If we were to depend on it we risk losing lives.
When the siren sounds off family members come from throughout the house and head down into the shelter. It’s loud enough to wake us as we’re sleeping.
My husband and I were standing out on our back porch watching the rain pour down as the intensity of the wind blew it sideways. Just as I said, I think it’s getting worse the siren sounded off for a solid minute.
A tornado was coming.
We remained inside the shelter for over an hour until we heard on the radio that after touching down it passed over us and had made it’s way to another small town farming community thirty miles east of us. It was safe to come out.
Upon emerging we went outside to check for damage. The slate tiles on the west side of our house had been ripped off the roof and the only thing missing from our yard was our trampoline. It was strapped into the ground with an anchor but tornadoes don’t care much about that.
We eventually found it down the street in our neighbors yard where it landed after colliding with their home and puncturing holes in the siding of their house.
Without the siren we wouldn’t have known it was coming. Without the radio we wouldn’t have known it passed. Without the CB radio we wouldn’t have been able to call for help if we need it.
In the days of modern technology there are places in the world where technology cannot reach and still depend on the old school techniques of life saving communication.