The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Blow Me Away

Okay, so remember yesterday? When I was having a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon? Well, that sure turned on me. Because the on and off April showers that started early in the morning, turned into a pretty serious storm. Of course, we didn't get the worst of it. And, for that, I'm grateful. I was thinking about all my blog buddies that were in harm's way last night - Mark Gibson, Tony Collett and Bluegrass Mama. And hoping each of them (and theirs) were all snug and safe.

My youngest slept through all the thunder and lightning, the high winds and even the civil defense sirens, in a room that has two walls that are entirely comprised of windows. (But if you flush a toilet down the hall from her bedroom at 7AM on a Saturday morning, you'll wake her up. It's uncanny.) Highlander and my two oldest girls were with me, alternately watching the weather forecast and radar on tv, and looking out the windows to see the rain sheeting sideways across the church parking lot behind our house.

While there was damage here in town, and as of 6:30 this morning, there were still 60,000 homes without power, the most damage I saw on my way to work this morning was a vinyl banner that had been ripped in two at a construction site and a few very small branches broken off from trees. The roof mentioned in the article above is at a location roughly two miles from our house. Which is entirely too close for me. And, though we didn't have to use it last night, we have a basement that comes in handy for any necessary weather-related exiles.

While the old wives' tale is "if March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb", or vice versa, it's April, so all bets are off. We've reached "tornado season" here in River City. Mid-march into May is generally a time for strong thunderstorms, and strong thunderstorms here in this valley tend to twist themselves up nicely into tornadoes. They aren't quite the hurricanes Highlander fled, but they're not nearly enough of a trade off.

I was transplanted to River City from New York state in my youth. 1974 was the first spring I spent here. And it was a memorable one. April 3, 1974 was (and continues to be for anyone old enough to remember it) a pretty significant marker when it comes to weather. Hundreds of tornadoes over a two day period. It was like something out of an H.G. Wells novel.

Here we are on an anniversary, of sorts. And, I hate remembering that day, especially when tornadic reminders are the means.

I remember my parents both being gone when the tornadoes first started touching down around River City. My mom at work. My dad on the road. My younger sister and I hiding under a pool table in the basement, until my mother got home. Our house wasn't hit, but others in our neighborhood were. All over town, there was devastation. My aunt's house had been hit. My grandmother's. But neither of them completely demolished. We lived out in the county, my aunt and my grandmother lived in the Highlands, which is closer in to the city. And the city was hardest hit. Part of an interview with a local forecaster always struck me...

This is the my most vivid memory of that day. I can’t remember who was the reporter-it may have been Ferrel Wellman -- but we heard reports that Cherokee Park was really devastated. So we sent out this reporter to go and check it out. We hear him back on the two-way radio

“Okay, What’s going on out there?”

He was in shock at that point. He just said “It’s gone!”

“What do you mean? The Photographer? What’s Gone?”

“It’s Gone!!” He just repeated it several times. “It’s Gone!!”

“Terrell, what’s gone?!?”

“The PARK! IT’S GONE!!!”

He was in shock because he saw those tree’s down and all the incredible devastation along the Eastern Parkway and Cherokee Park.

Now we're talking about 409 acres of park here. We're not talking about a little traffic island. Newsmen and forecasters, I suppose never having had an opportunity like this, were scrambling to find new damage, new angles. But they were, quite universally, humbled.

Someday, probably sooner than I'd like, I'll be sitting out on my porch with a few grandchildren, telling them about that storm system and how I was a girl scout at the time. And how our troop helped in the clean-up efforts. About how the community came together and helped each other. Strangers with pick up trucks and chainsaws just driving from street to street to clear the roads. People from other communities bringing in fresh water. About families being reunited days later. All the stories of hope and the good things that came out of it. Probably less about the death and loss. And certainly, how every time a tornado comes through here, it reminds me of that day, and of how lucky I continue to be.


Blogger Tony Collett said...

Me and mine are safe, but it was a little crazy around 10pm last night, with the town siren going off and us watching the TV and the skies to see if anything was coming.

4/03/2006 2:08 PM  
Blogger Highlander said...

A blast of wind
mighty, mighty
makes of our roofbeams
flighty, flighty
the windows shudder
the floorboards shake
and on the tube some blond guy makes
strange blue squiggles in the air
that mean 'tornadoes! Now beware!'

the siren shrieks its wail of doom!
a cyclone's thunder fills the room!
I eye the basement door, ajar
ten feet away, is it too far?
I think amidst this booming strife
must I cellar dwell for all my life?

And then the sweetest sound I know
the siren has now ceased to blow!
on TV that fine fellow sez
the danger's passed, so have some Pez!
And so it's off to bed for me
as we are now

4/03/2006 9:53 PM  

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