Tornado Alley

You know it’s bad when your yoga teacher hands out weather maps in class.

red fence

“The storms are coming,” said Grace last Saturday morning. “They won’t be here until tonight, but they’re coming. Don’t know what you want to do about that.”

Saturday afternoon, I was inexplicably driven to clean. This was a momentous occasion. Our first chance to come face to face with the legendary storms of Tornado Alley. Needed to get our house in order, if only to have it flattened.

“Tonight we’ll have a slumber party,” we told our son. “We’ll be in the basement together and that’s the safest place to be.” Not counting other states or planets.

Preparation felt cursory. Unnecessary. We moved about in denial. By six o’clock, the twisters had yet to materialize. We shook our fists at the sky. Dined at a teriyaki restaurant called Tsunami. Let our son watch The Wizard of Oz at his Kids’ Night Out party. Drove home uneventfully.


Meanwhile, the sky went black and began to rain. Normal at first. Then in torrents. Hail. Wailing tornado sirens.

Our descent downstairs was a rush of grabbing the child, the dog, bottled water, pillows, a candle, lip balm. We barricaded our troop in a basement bedroom. From there we monitored the storms’ progress online. Posted updates on Facebook. Prayed.

We couldn’t see or hear the twisters from inside our bunker. Online reports were our only source of information. We quickly learned tornadoes are fickle.

The storms have turned south and will miss us. No, they’re headed north into downtown. Now they’re coming straight up the highway. Right for us!

Our camp scrambled into the bedroom closet. We huddled on the floor with our smart phones and prayers. You realize by telling you this I make you accountable. If God forbid we should ever go missing in a tornado, you are to direct rescuers to look for us in that closet.


And then, without warning, it was over.

The next day, the sky was bright, sunny, and blue. We’d awakened to a life that looked the same as it had many mornings before, except for a few broken blades on our outdoor porch fan.

But the dog refused to leave the house. My body was jittery, sore, and fatigued. Miraculously, no deaths were reported in Wichita, though the city suffered more than $280 million in damage.

We wandered through Sunday trying to absorb our surroundings. Watched a storm chaser’s video of the tornadoes. Saw their smoky devil tendrils trickling downward from a smooth expanse of charcoal clouds. Mustering spins. Willing themselves into funnels.

upside down

When Midwesterners learn I grew up in North Carolina, I cannot tell you how many have said to me, “Oh, I wouldn’t want to live there. You have hurricanes!”

Hurricanes are visible on weather maps three days out. Those that make landfall wreak havoc, but most hurricanes sputter and die at sea. They are devastatingly dangerous, yet hurricanes lack the element of surprise.

We’d survived this first round. A fine welcome to Tornado Alley.

Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him. Psalm 103:15-17 NLT

Dust in the Wind, like you’ve never seen or heard it before, by Judith Mateo.

I shot the photos in this post three miles from my home.

What’s your storm story? How did you survive?

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18 Responses to Tornado Alley

  1. Joy

    That was a terrible storm, we didn’t get the tornado but the warning was there. The possibility was high. So, that same night, we were in our basement. 60 mile an hour winds blew a large tree branch off our maple. Phew, welcome to the Midwest! :-)

  2. Glad you made it through safe and sound!!

  3. stacy jarrell

    i agree with mr bostic….glad all is well!!!!

  4. Anita S

    Two weeks ago tornadoes hit the north Texas area, but we were in Georgia, thank God. Our home was not affected, but as you say, tornadoes are fickle!
    I’m so glad you & your family weren’t hurt!

  5. Elizabeth Whelan

    I can’t believe I am living in an area with no basements!! How did that happen? I think the search committee forgot to mention that!!! I thought I was in a “safe” window to pick up Matthew from school. I thought I had my bases covered. Wrong…so wrong. I in fact was on the highway when a tornado hit. I was hysterical. I truly thought I was going to die. I saw my life flash before my eyes. I managed to call Don on the cell phone and tell him. I have NO idea how my car pulled up to school. I got Matthew and he did not mention one word about storms, tornado….the fact that he was in lockdown for the past hour. His ONLY concern…what snack did I bring…he was hungry!!! God is good, so good!!! We have a storm shelter on order and Matthew got to eat all the icecream out of the carton with a spoon when we got home!!!!

    • Oh, Elizabeth. The suddenness of it and the feeling of safety being shattered… That will stop your heart. Thank you, Lord, for keeping you safe and getting you to the school. As I mentioned to Anita above, those storms that hit Texas were unbelievable! Your storm shelter couldn’t come soon enough. If there is a silver lining, living through it really puts things in perspective. Love you, E!

  6. Christel

    I think you should make a tornado book bag! Complete with weather radio, flash lights, candles, bottled water…..& of course lip balm! Glad y’all are safe! <3

  7. Lip balm? That just really made me laugh.

    But take it from this old tornado alley pro: keep a box or bag handy that you can grab and take with you on short notice, like a radio, batteries, flashlight, water, and whatever else you think you’ll need. Oh, and before we dash to the closet, I always make the kids put on their bicycle helmets. Probably futile, but it makes me feel better.

    • Bicycle helmets! Why didn’t I think of that?
      I did take my lip balm downstairs. It’s necessary. What’s better though is that T took his snowboard and tried to make the dog stay under it. What a circus. Yes, we’ll be packing our survival kit in advance of the next one. Thanks for reading and commenting, Shannon :)

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