I grew up in the Midwest. We didn’t have hurricanes or earthquakes or locusts. But we did have tornadoes. And let me tell you something, there hasn’t been an earthquake or rainstorm I’ve ever witnessed that can scare the bageebers out of me, like a tornado can.
The thing about twisters are that you never know where they will touch down. You can see one off in the distance that looks like it’s going right then it tricks you and goes left. It can look like it’s moving away from you and then come right at you. It can flatten your neighbor’s house and leave yours standing without so much as a loosened board. It can suck up and carry anything in its path.
I remember when I was a kid the odd reports we would hear during tornado season. A woman, cooking in her kitchen was sucked into a twister when it blew off the roof of her house. It touched down and dropped her off (without injury) 20 miles away. Farmers had cows sucked up out of their pastures and left at the next town. A family of four were driving down the interstate and the twister picked them up, car and all and dropped them off 100 miles later. Bizarre, Twilight Zone kind of stuff.
It is a natural phenom that is unlike any other I’ve ever seen. The air takes on this really still and heavy quality – as though all living creatures have caught their collective breaths. As though, you are suddenly in a vacuum.
When it looks really bad, people are advised to turn off everything and to head down to the basement to seek shelter. That may be why there are basements in that neck of the woods. Underground panic rooms, where you sit and wait and listen to the newscast and you try to play cards and not be scared but you are anyway. I remember many times, sitting in a quiet basement with my family, no one talking or doing, just listening and waiting.
We had a family friend named, Marge. A great lady who had a beautiful Victorian house on Lake St. Claire. I used to love to go to her house because she always had watermelon and potato salad and you could sit on her big porch and eat, as the breeze from the lake rustled your hair. There was a peaceful quality about her property and her house. It was like a big, friendly hug, that you always loved to have.
We had many, many visits to Marge’s over the years and it is truly one of my fondest childhood memories.
But one year, we had a lot of tornadoes. They would hit suddenly, knocking down whole blocks of homes sometimes. And believe me, there isn’t much left behind – it looks like a giant box of toothpicks was dumped out on the lot. Sadly, Marge’s house was hit by one of those evil funnels of wind and centrifugal force. The beautiful white house with the dark blue shutters and the wind-around porch – nothing but splinters. Marge was okay – she made it to safety and no harm or injury occurred, but the house was gone. She didn’t rebuild as we thought she might. Instead, she moved to another state and I never saw her again. Never sat on her porch eating watermelon and potato salad, never felt that lovely lake breeze again. And I never forgave the twister for that, nor will I ever.
Here in California, we got your earthquakes and sometimes pretty bad rainstorms, but I’d take them anyday over a twister. They don’t call them twisters for nothing. And they still scare the bageebers outta me.
What’s your scariest natural disaster?