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Thursday, June 12, 2008

A little too close ...

Maybe its because I grew up on a farm, but if there is threatening weather, I still need to see what is coming. Thinking back, without the luxury of warning sirens living in a rural area, it was up to Dad to look for any questionable storms headed in our direction. He would exit the farm house, and stand leaning on the yard fence and look skyward for anything suspect and swirling. When he said "it's time ..." it was time to head outside to the storm shelter. If he couldn't see anything or if it was at night, we would head down for safety "just in case."

Well, last night something told me that I needed to keep an eye to the sky. There had already been several funnel clouds spotted just to the southwest of Omaha. I had the necessities ready, and tucked away in our basement shelter. I ventured outside. On the horizon clouds were raising and lowering. Ran had come upstairs to see where I was and joined me on the front stoop. The clouds directly above us were meandering in a northeast direction. It was reported that there was a tornado on the ground just 7 miles away. I still wanted to watch. Even the neighbors had gone inside. "There!" I pointed toward a circulation. Clouds above us where now being drawn back straight west. A finger dropped down, and then formed into a cone shape, and then turned white drawing in some of the moisture. "Its time" I said. We went straight to the basement. Randy's ears where popping and I had an instant sinus headache on the left side of my head.

We were lucky. This same storm was responsible for the damage and the lives that were taken at the Little Sioux Boy Scout camp just north of Omaha. Three of the boys killed were from Omaha. I have NEVER seen so many tornado warnings, and reports of funnels on the ground. At one point I counted 13 counties under the gun at the same time in our area. I cannot stop thinking about the families, and what those boys witnessed. Very scary stuff. News teams from around the country have descended upon the area.

I have been through several tornados. I remember my first one - I must have been 4 or 5. Dad and I were up at the neighbors, and they were bringing the cattle in toward the pens for an upcoming sale I believe. I remember there being a lot of wind, so much noise, and seeing things flying through the air. But what I will never forget was seeing the neighbors teenage children leaping over the fences to get inside to take shelter from the swirling clouds that were headed in our direction. I mean they CLEARED the fences with one leap like hurdling on the higschool track course. I'm pretty sure Dad had told me to stay put in the basement, but I had wondered outside in fear and needed to be with the adults. I remember hearing everyone screaming my name, and someone scooping me up and running back to the farmhouse to take shelter. I remember seeing metal and wood scraps and leaves plastered thick to the side of vertical surfaces. I recall seeing another neighbors corn bin after its near mile journey on our property by the creek. I remember mom getting upset with the government officials after they arrived to say they were "trying to determine" if there had been a tornado ... gee? You think?

This is Nebraska after all. One cannot be excused from such experiences. I remember hearing a wall of hail, and seeing my parents run toward the house another time. In high school while watching a football game with friends, there was a close call in the small town of Blue Hill. We took shelter in a basement of a friend's relative, many hid in the shower stalls of the highschool across the street. The roof had been lifted off of that same building. There was debris everywhere.

Four years ago my Dad was coming home after a BIG heart scare. It involved a life-flight to Lincoln, two surgeries, and more, we were happy to bring him home to the farm. Tired and exhausted all Dad wanted to do was grill steaks and settle in. We had the radio on, and there were storms headed toward us. Despite opposition, Dad had taken to his post outside. I don't know if Ran had ever seen rotation like what we were witnessing. And the clouds were lowering quickly. Dad said the radio and the flashlights were down in his workshop. While everyone headed below ground, I bolted to the shop. The wind had increased and was hitting the right side of my face. I grabbed what I needed, and in a split second was headed back for the house. Now the wind had picked up leaves and they too were hitting me - on the RIGHT side of my face. I knew the sudden wind shift wasn't good. I grabbed the storm door handle, but could not lift it. The pressure from the wind gave it the weight of an elephant. As I struggled the wind pulled my shirt over my back and around my head. "GET DOWN HERE!" and "LET GO" was being screamed at me.

Looking back, I should have remembered the scene in the movies ... the actor holding on to the cellar door typically gets sucked away! I don't know what I was thinking and am glad I gave the idea up quickly. After a lot of noise and hearing things crack, shatter, rip and break we arose to hundreds of twisted trees, ripped rooftops, snarled fences and a lot of hail. It took 4 or 5 days to get power, and much longer to clean up. Dad claimed he had never been so helpless. Randy took off work to help with the cleanup. Neighbors chipped in. I stayed back for a week and became a tree cleanup, debris piling, bonfire expert. Something just kicks in, and you have the energy to do what has to be done.

Again last night, here at the Huber home, we were lucky. I am looking forward to the upcoming forcast, which looks cooler, sunny and dry. I need to run some errands ... which reminds me ... my purse and keys are still in the basement.


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