It’s not what you ask, it’s who you ask

I try, I really do. But I am ‘that mom’.

Last week after Hurricane Irma hit Florida and continued on a northwestern bend, I was talking to my daughter on FaceTime. She told me about how they were expecting high winds in South Carolina, a lot of rain and probably a tornado or two because there were “on the tornado side of the hurricane.”

The fact that a hurricane is a all-you-can-eat buffet of natural disasters did not escape me, which caused me to say the words no mother should probably utter.

“Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tornado?,” I asked my daughter as I caught a glance of my two-year-old grandson sprinting behind her with an apple he appeared to have just stolen in an effort to not starve in the aftermath of the tornado.

She gave me this look, one that lay steadily in the space between exasperation and anger management in action. One that I have had on my face before when I felt someone had underestimated my immeasurable skills.

“I’m 31. I have a plan,” she managed to say without opening her teeth.

In my defense, I contacted every friend and family member I had on both coasts to make sure they had a plan. I just can’t help myself.

Also, my son lived in Boston during historic snowfalls, so I eat worry for breakfast. This time, to her brother’s relief, it was my daughter’s turn.

I didn’t ask her to send me bullet points of her plan. Instead, I went over her house plan in my head and surmised the hall closet was the best place to go. I never told her because I’m sure she already thought of it, Plus … that look.

I just hope she remembers to move the bowling ball she keeps in there for posterity – to California or somewhere equally as far away from a tornado.

When I talked to her the next day, businesses in South Carolina had shut down, so her husband was home from work and taking a nap with their tiny force of nature and his emergency apple.

My daughter was calmly decorating cookies in this rare peace, except the wind was blowing like a gazillion miles an hour outside. Still, she talked to me on FaceTime using zen-like motions to decorate cookies, the bowling ball clearly not in her thoughts.

She was on top of her cookie game, so I assumed she would wake up her crew and calmly herd them toward the bowling ball-free closet in the event that a tornado meandered through their part of South Carolina. She was never called to do that, and I will never know about the bowling ball.

Two hurricanes of massive proportion within two weeks of each other is insanity. I am certain I’m not the only mother this month who asked their child if they were prepared in the event of  hurricane-related shenanigans.

And I won’t be the last, I’ll just ask my son-in-law next time.

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Rooftop Meteorology 101

You may have noticed that we are smack dab in the middle of tornado season, or the “Super Cell Solstice” as we call it in these parts.


Last Friday was the 36th anniversary of Terrible Tuesday, which was the day that an F5 tornado famously hit Wichita Falls, killing almost 50 people, injuring some 800, and devastating a chunk of the city.

While I didn’t live in Wichita Falls, but in geographically-lucky-10-miles-to-the-west Iowa Park, I remember that day – and the days that followed – vividly.

I remember seeing the tornado  that didn’t even look like a tornado because of its massiveness; sitting in my Mom’s Ford Granada in the driveway, intently listening to the car radio’s live accounts of the devastation in Wichita Falls; and having to cook everything from the freezers because it would be a long time before the electricity came back on and we were one of the few in the neighborhood with a gas cook stove.

And I remember that April 10, 1979, was the last time I ever saw my neighbors get on top of their houses in tornado season.

I was in eighth grade and lived on Cornelia Street at that time, just behind Kidwell Elementary, where no one had a cellar to go to when tornado warnings were issued.

We had two choices: go to the basement at the high school (with your dogs, if you had ‘em and we did) and hang out with some of the most questionably interesting people ever; or, go up on the roof to see for yourself if a tornado is really approaching.

Back in those days you could tell in our neighborhood when bad weather was coming our way because the roofline on Cornelia Street looked like a giant, block-long Whack-A-Mole game.

It was our version of a block party.

And, the bigger the storm, the more people got out ladders and crawled on top of their own roof to act as dual lightning rod/meteorologists. I have long suspected this is a southern thing.

And they would stand up there and talk to each other across streets and property lines, the most intelligent among us  giving the best color commentary.

“Them clouds comin’ in, they’re green. Reckon that’s hail?,” one man would yell to another on a roof caddy-corner across the street.

“Yep, might be time to get down,” the other would yell back and everyone would get off their respective roofs and go inside, presumably to run with scissors.

In retrospect, it is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, but back then it seemed totally normal.

April 10 cured that. It pretty much scared the dumb out of my neighborhood, my redneck self included. My career as a rooftop meteorologist ended when I was only 14 years old.

I don’t know if Terrible Tuesday brought the realization that the weather they saw approaching was so much bigger than they were; or if once you see with your own eyes the massiveness of an F5 tornado – even from 10 miles away – it seems much safer to stick your tongue in a light socket than to stay on the roof.

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