Sunday, January 24, 2010
Well it didn't feel like a near-death experience...until a day later.
And you know, maybe it wasn't, because the tornado was the weakest kind. But had it been a little stronger and my windows a little weaker...
From the beginning. (Where else can I shamlessly detail my harrowing experience?)
Friday, Januay 22, 2010.
John left really really early that morning. He had an awards breakfast to go to for the base. And his team won something! And they beat out the guys that launch rockets. The details of the victory were sort of lost in translation though. The next time I saw him, we were very preoccupied. So he was out the door by 7 am. I had to let our dog out for a bathroom break, and I noticed for the first time that it was raining. And that actually surprised me because it was so light I couldn't hear it from inside. All our blinds were shut unusually tight, or I would have seen the dousing. And the plants sure needed the water. I made sure Noah was snug in his bed. He's been waking really early lately.. and messing up any chances of me sleeping late! He actually wanted a snack and I happily obliged. Anything to keep him sleeping more soundly once the snack was over. And snug as a bug I was, by 7.
That rainy sleep is really the best. Cuddling with your dog and a body pillow isn't bad either. But at some point I awoke to the wind and rain beating against our sliding doors. We sleep on the second floor, facing the Banana River, and our room opens up to a balcony overlooking the water. The rain hitting the doors isn't really anything new. Every single time there is a strong storm, isolated or part of a front moving through, the wind can get pretty intense. So I just thought..well, that's a strong one.. and tried to squeeze my pillow, thanks for that Santa, tighter. But some little alarm bells started going off in my head when the strong wind got louder, the water hitting the doors harder. I could also hear our chairs on the balcony scooting around in the wind, not too unusual for bad weather. The vertical blinds were shut tight. They are closed about half the time or less. I do enjoy waking up to the water view. So I couldn't see out that morning. As the rumbling wind grew increasingly louder I jumped out of bed and peaked out the blinds, just as I was starting to realize the rumbling was more than wind, not quite as dynamic as thunder and getting quite loud. And the windows were now shuddering roughly. My view was not exactly a view. The only thing I could see was white water flying sideways in the air, and I could see absolutely nothing past the rail of the balcony.
Insert thoughts of Holy Crap; It couldn't be that; I have to get Noah; Laundry room; TV; Laptop; Phone; My neighbors!
Noah was awake when I burst into his room and scooped him out of bed. He seemed kind of confused about all the noise outside. I ran downstairs with him in my arms and plopped him down in the laundry room floor, which is under the stairs. I think that was the peak of it, when we were going down the stairs. There was certainly a roaring train sound, and all the windows were almost violently shaking. It's probably good the blinds were closed or I might have had some wet carpet to clean. I had a distinct feeling that we should already be there and a kind of fear that the huge living room windows would break. After making sure Noah knew not to move, I went to the couch to get my laptop and ~surprise~ my cell phone was right there! I tried to turn on the tv and get it to right channel. Darn you 4 digit fancy tv! My fingers, though they tried their hardest just could not push the right numbers. Lifetime, NO. TBS, Come ON. I gave up on the local weather channel and tried to press two simple numbers for the Weather Channel. And still no luck. Of course, I didn't need a pretty guy in a suit to tell me what had just rolled by my house. By that time the rumbling had died down. I mean.. the whole thing was maybe 1 minute long.
I tried calling John 2 times and my next door neighbor too. I think she was trying to call me simultaneously! John ended up texting me back. He was in the middle of that official breakfast thing. My text to him was legible I think. Something like tornado, no broken windows, we're fine, everything on the patio gone. Typos and double letters included. Stupid freaked out fingers. How did he not know something HUGE had just happened? He was only a mile or two away!
I figured that we were on the edge of a big tornado. After finally getting the weather on the tv, I saw that one has just exited Cocoa Beach, the town adjacent to the base to the north, and the tornado was over the ocean. I thought, if it's this bad here, what's it like there? Oh my! As it turns out, it was a small one. And we took a nearly direct hit.
The contents of our patio flew across our end of the base. Some of it went all the way across the highway and to the beach. John came home. The neighbors and us cleaned up everyone's patio chairs and toys and things like that. Housing came out and did work on my roof later. But no one seemed to think it was that big of a deal..all nonchalant about it. Everyone except my next door neighbor Chris. I'm sure she and I have both had our random emotional moments in the last two days.
There was big news where the tornado started on the mainland. But not as much about where it ended, and barely a word mentioned about the base. Maybe partly because anything that happens on base comes out through Public Affairs and not regular media outlets.
So after some investigative journalism of my own, thank you college degree, I found the radar image of the tornado and the path. Oh thank you NOAA also. Weather gods you are.
And here is my theory. I think the tornado was still weak when it got here, but when it made it's last jog across the Banana River it picked up a ton of water, like a water spout. But a tornado-strong water spout. And that's all the white that I saw.
I didn't feel really *affected* the day of the event. I guess there was still adrenaline and wonder and awe. But yesterday..oh goodness. I went garage sale hopping, which is a Friday event for me. But my Friday was interrupted.. And life was normal for everyone! I wanted to tell everyone that I had survived a tornado! Look and hear! This is what it's like. But I stayed quiet and disconnected. Even when I heard mentions of the storm. It's one of those things, you feel like something is lost in the retelling. Some of it's truth. Some of it's reality. You just cannot explain accurately enough for someone to really get it, if they weren't there. Even my own husband.. And it just started making me feel sad and weird. Additionally, I got to thinking about how SUCKY it is that there was absolutely no warning for the base. We live far from the speakers that relay messages from the command post. They also do siren warnings and play revelry and the Star Spangled Banner at different times during the day. So we wouldn't have heard it if there was a warning. Which is angering in itself. But also there just was no warning. I mean.. does my end of the neighborhood not count? I know we're practically off base, but we are within the walls.
To be fair and accurate, this tornado lived affected the area for 10 minutes total. That isn't very long. But we do have weather people who are supposed to be on top of it.
And finally, ranting aside, here is a map of the path of the tornado. Seeing that red line is validating and terrifying.
Lesson Learned: I'm not as strong as I thought. And I do get frazzled in emergencies. All my end of the world books have been only slightly helpful :)