12 May 2010

Tornado Scare

I know my non-Oklahoman relatives will enjoy hearing about our tornado adventures, even though my Oklahoma friends and family have experienced things very similar to this, and find this to be the same old song, so to speak.

The night before last, we had a tornado scare, and Jay was in Ardmore! I was a bit nervous, although looking back, I wasn’t really in freakout mode. We were supposed to go out to the lake to eat steaks and let Claire stay the night with Paul and Diane in their new camper. Diane texted me at about 6 p.m. and said not to come, that the weather was getting bad. It was windy and warm, with heavy gray clouds, but I wasn’t scared, just annoyed that I would have to cook dinner on a night when I thought I was going to get off the hook!

So I started cooking dinner and turned on the local news, which was in straight-weather mode, no commercials, no shows. I could hear things about tornadoes being sighted in the Ardmore area, but I wasn’t paying too close attention. Then I started seeing that it was coming through Madill heading straight east, and I started wondering if I should figure out where to take the girls. I called the neighbors who have a cellar, but they said it was too wet and they weren’t going to go in there. I kept trying to call Paul’s and Diane’s cell phones throughout this, trying to get their opinion, but couldn’t get them. I was talking to Jay on and off, and he was at a home that had a big cellar, thankfully. Then the sirens went off! Mom called and said she, Ty, and Manda were coming back from a school field trip, and Grandad had told them not to come to Coleman, the storm was coming toward them. Mom said she may come to our house instead of going home. Just as the storms passed through Madill and were heading into Kingston, Jay and I decided I should go to his parents’, even though I still hadn’t gotten ahold of them to make sure they were there instead of at the lake. I got Anna into her carseat, and then Mom, Manda, and Ty knocked on our door!

I let them in, and waffled around some more about whether or not to go, if they should come with us, or what. Then the sirens went off again! We all watched the weather for a second, and determined that I should go to Paul and Diane’s, and they would go to Coleman. By now it was about 7:30, and I pulled dinner out of the oven, but no time to eat! I had to take cover! It was time for us to eat and time for Anna to nurse, but we had to go! So with Anna screaming, rain pelting, and wind blowing, I set off on the 12-minute drive to Paul and Diane’s. It was raining really hard, but I was driving on a little back road, so I had to go slow enough that I didn’t feel like it was dangerous driving. The rain suddenly slowed down to just a few splattering drops, and the wind died down. I heard a dull whining roar. I thought I must be hearing the sirens again, but I rolled down the window, and it wasn’t the sirens. I think it was the storm going over, and I was still 10 minutes from shelter! I knew that at the time, but I didn’t really let myself believe it, so I didn’t freak out. After only a minute or so, the rain picked back up and that sound went away. Anna was still screaming though.

Claire finished her chocolate milk and tried to get me to take her cup, like she usually does, but I said, “Not right now Claire, I’ve got to focus on driving.” I explained to her that it was really stormy, and we had to get to Mamaw and Papaw’s house fast so we could get in the cellar in case a tornado came. She enjoys going in Mamaw and Papaw’s new cellar whether it’s stormy or not, and I explained to her that a tornado is really strong winds that come down from the sky and can pick up cows! I don’t know if this really impressed her as much as I thought it should.

Anyway, we finally made it to Mamaw and Papaw’s driveway. Anna was still screaming in case you’re wondering. As I drove up, I saw two extra vehicles and three people I didn’t immediately recognize staring up at the sky. The people who had been camping with Paul and Diane had come back to their house with them; they were three couples from our church. Paul helped me get the girls in the house, and I immediately sat down with Anna and started nursing her under her tent. Things were so crazy with most people coming in to check the TV, or out to check the sky, that I figured nobody would mind if I nursed Anna in the middle of it all. Then I heard the news lady say that people of Durant should take cover. We were in Calera, so we didn’t think this applied to us. Then the Calera storm sirens went off, and Diane heard another channel say that a tornado had just been seen by a Love’s gas station that was only a couple miles from us. So Diane leaped into motion, shouting toward the back porch where a couple more people were sitting, “We better go to the cellar!” I heard Ruth from our church trill, “Steeeee-ven!!”, one of the people who was standing in the yard with his head tilted back at a 90 degree angle. Anna, Claire, Diane, Ruth, Dee Davis, her dog Bonnie, and I were all in the cellar, and it felt pretty cozy, but there were still five people above, watching the sky! I finished feeding Anna in one of the camping chairs, and we sat down there with the door open, waiting. It still wasn't raining hard--just hard, spattering drops, and the wind had died down again. We chatted about nothing in particular for about 15 minutes, until a couple of the sky-watchers came over and told us the danger had passed; the storm had moved over to the east. We were all starving, and dinner was pretty much ready in the house, so we climbed out and the ladies set about pulling baked potatoes from the oven, cutting up a prime rib, pulling out paper plates and plastic silverware, etc.

We ate dinner at about 8:15, and then went back to watching the storm coverage. I got word from my sister that they had made it back to Coleman, thank goodness. Then we heard on the news that a tornado had touched down three miles south of Coleman! I got a text from the other Kim that she had seen on the news that the Sundowner arena, which she knew was owned by my uncle, had been hit! (They later amended that title, saying that Kyle from their Facebook page had said that the arena is no longer the Sundowner arena. Yup, that was my brother, on fb during the storm!) When Amanda and the rest of my Coleman family emerged from the cellar a little later, we texted back and forth about what we knew about the arena, while I talked and texted with Jay, who was driving back from Ardmore--he’d been meeting with a family in their home about building a house for their parents, and thankfully, that home had a big cellar. They’d been down to the cellar two different times, and the storms had finally subsided enough between here and there for him to head back.

The arena was wrecked, but all my family made it back home safe and sound, thank the Lord!

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