Monday, June 29, 2015

That Time We Were Near a Tornado

Summer is a delightful time of year around here and June is generally the nicest month of summer with its endless high latitude daylight hours and the heat that we wait all winter to feel again.  It is also a time of regular storms and unstable weather patterns.  This weekend we were visiting Eastern ND and spent Saturday evening watching a continuous weather broadcast while funnel clouds and then tornadoes touched down all around us.  Eeek.  Storms with tornado potential are always unsettling and they used to scare the crap out of me as a child, especially when you could hear the emergency siren in town wailing at our farm three miles away from the actual siren. I only remember taking shelter in the basement twice in my life.  Once was when I was a teenager.  My brother and I were home alone while my parents were in Fargo and my sister was babysitting.  There was no tornado that time but there was a lot of tiny non damaging hail.  The other time was a few summers ago at my sister's house when the city sirens sounded in the middle of the night. 

The weather this weekend reminded me that we had our own bizarre weather event last weekend.  On Friday night I was outside talking to the neighbors while Ben and Tessa played with their grandchildren as the black clouds rolled in and the humidity became oppressive.  A few raindrops fell and half an our later we were standing at our window looking out at the city and seeing this:

Usually you can see for miles from this hill but we couldn't even see the other houses in the circle through the rain.  It was like someone was spraying our window with a fire hose.  We could feel the windowpanes rattling.  Well, it turns out we probably shouldn't have been standing in front of the windows because the wind gusted 82 miles an hour during that storm!  Ooops!  It turns out that there was destruction all over town, including this commercial building, which is about 20 blocks from our house. 
Dang!  There were also widespread power outages, shingles ripped off roofs and endless trees and branches snapped.  There were even trees completely uprooted.  Apparently it wasn't a tornado.  It was a very extreme downdraft...or something.  Something with straight line winds. 
That excitement moved into the past as everyone quickly cleaned up the mess and we headed to my parents' farm for the weekend.  On Friday I saw a graphic showing an elevated risk in Eastern ND and Western MN for severe storms but those are often overly cautious.  Well, my mom and I were cleaning their old house and dragging junk out when we saw the familiar black clouds hovering to the north and west.  That was always a creepy thing about the farm.  You never knew what was coming since bad weather almost always comes from those directions and farms are almost always barricaded to the north and west in order to protect the buildings from that weather.  We turned on the TV to find full local news coverage of storm chasers, funnel clouds, viewer photos of hail the size of baseballs and bright red radar images heading right for our area.  We watched clouds swirling around right above the house which is a sight so fascinating and scary it is hard to look away from it.  Meanwhile, Justin and my dad were out on the road away from the trees so they could get a good view and he took these pictures. 

Definitely menacing...probably time to head for shelter...

Ummm...that's dust being pulled up from the ground into the sky...might be time to head for a safe place...
Yesterday I saw this image from the National Weather service indicating that there was indeed an EF2 tornado that occurred in the area. 

The town is in the lower left hand corner and the farm is directly east along the bottom of the image, just cut off from the map, just to the east of the creek that you see snaking down the picture.  It was about 4.5 miles away.  Well, glad that's over and good thing it touched a field and not a farm because I know those people in those little clusters of trees! The people who live in the cluster north west of the tornado have a two year old.  My dad owns the grain bins at the edge of their yard.  As far as I know they are still intact!

Other than the storm, the weekend was a memorable one for me as I attempted to deal with years of childhood accumulation and made the hard decisions about what to keep and what to throw away.  I have been struggling with this process for months and I made major progress this weekend.  We had a bonfire and I threw in many bags of old possessions, including boxes of childhood birthday cards and notes passed between my friends at school, old clothes and...wiping tears...stuffed animals.  Many containers worth of possessions were saved, including favorite childhood books (I'm not parting with the Babysitter's Club or Anne of Green Gables or Ramona!) scrapbooks and homemade gifts.  It's still way too much but I did my best.  Also, and this is major, I saw a substantial expanse of attic floor for the first time ever. 

Yeah for real all the floor you see there was stacked with boxes.  That's what happens when you have a house big enough to hide all your crap.  That is about 1/5 of the space up there.  There are four corners and a very scary overhang that has a very noticeable slant. I always wish for more storage in my house but maybe it's for the best that all we have is shelves in the garage and a crawl space under the stairs.  Attics like this are becoming relics that many people only see in movies or hear about in sentimental Christmas songs but the truth is they are not the most appealing places to be.  You can see there is no insulation so in the winter the temperature up there usually matches the temperature outside and in the summer, well, imagine a breezeless inferno much hotter than the temperature outside.  There is no air conditioning in the house so the nice thing about going in the attic is that when you come down the rest of the house feels cool for a minute even though it might be 80 degrees in there! 
Ok, I am going to try to block the sounds of my stuffed animals dying in the fire...actually, I feel like a fire is a respectful way to dispose of things you care about but can't keep. At least they won't be rotting in a dumpster and then a landfill. 

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