Growing up in Alabama, we had tornado warnings on a regular basis. I remember lots of afternoons sitting in the hallways at school, because our area was under a tornado warning.
I also remember worrying about whether my mother knew about it or not. When I was a kid, I could find plenty to worry about. Fortunately, that all changed at some point. But I would sit in the windowless hallway at school, wondering if Mother knew she needed to take shelter in the central bathroom of our house…or maybe in the little room under the stairs. I couldn’t imagine what would happen to us if Mother were swept away in a tornado.
Today, we had a rare tornado warning in Mecklenburg County. In Alabama, I was accustomed to the kind of storms we are seeing today. I always knew schools were prepared. But today, when we had a tornado warning, I immediately started to wonder if my daughter’s school has had tornado drills. Of course, I know they are prepared. I know their primary goal is our kids’ safety. I know that, but in the same way I used to worry about my mother, I immediately thought of my child. I knew they had made all the students take shelter, because they have a plan in place, but I was relieved to receive a text from my daughter asking, “Is there a tornado at our house?” Here’s what I was seeing at that moment:
While I should have taken shelter in the central closet or bathroom of our home, I was standing at the front window, waiting to see if a funnel cloud would drop from the sky. I’ve never actually seen a tornado, but I know what to look for, and I certainly know when conditions are right…and they were right. I’ve seen lots of waterspouts form, which is fascinating, but not a tornado…yet. So when our daughter’s text came in, I responded, “I’m not sure.” The wind was howling, the rain was coming down in all different directions, and I thought I detected some rotation in the clouds.
I realized I had probably frightened her with that answer, so I immediately sent, “We are OK. Don’t worry.” And I sent her a video of the rain and wind outside our house. I asked if it looked like that where she was, and she said, “I don’t know. I can’t see outside.” Of course not. So I asked, “Can you hear the wind and rain?” She responded, “Yes.” She was huddled with lots of other students in the supply shop in the dining hall at her school.
After 45 minutes, the tornado warning ended, and we went about our lives. I got an automated call saying the warning was over, and the students were returning to class. But the whole scenario made me realize how seldom folks in North Carolina have had to deal with tornadoes. In fact, this afternoon, a teacher from her school posted on Facebook that this was her first tornado warning at school in 22 years of teaching! Wow! I feel like we spent weeks in the halls during tornado warnings at school!
So for those of you in North Carolina and other places that rarely experience tornadic activity, you can see guidelines to follow at weather.gov here.
The main thing? Keep yourself, your loved ones, and your pets safe.