Potato Siren

Last night, we were eating dinner.  Life as usual, and then, as we were talking, there was a pause.  The storm outside raged on, but over it, we heard the high pitched wail of a tornado siren.  I’ve never heard it go off except in a monthly test.  We dropped everything and went into the basement.

M and Little A were scared, but fortunately, my parents have just moved in with us, so the basement was outfitted with chairs, a TV, and a microwave.   My parents, who are from Iowa and seasoned tornado veterans, weren’t terribly worried.

Little A listened to the siren and asked, “What’s that noise?”

“It’s a tornado siren.”

“Potato siren!  I like it potato siren.”  (It must be nice to be two and not worry about these things.)

We made a big show of smiling and entertaining the kids until the sirens went off, and after awhile, we reemerged to finish dinner, do dishes, and laugh that the sky looked fine here.  About forty minutes later, I saw that the sky looked eerie, a yellowish cast under black clouds.  “Hey,” I said to my husband, “I guess that’s why the siren went off…I guess it could have happened.”

“Yeah, but the tornado warning just expired, and I think it’s–” he stopped, interrupted by the blare of the siren again.  Back down we went, longer this time, as the siren went on an on.  We made popcorn, and Little A bounced around and said, “I love potato siren! It’s so fun!”

I kept smiling and reassuring my children, even as my phone flashed warnings–Tornado on the ground.  Severe hail.  Flood danger imminent.  (Really, with those warnings, do you go up or down?)  My husband added, laughing, “Oh, and there’s also a local pollen alert.”

We stayed down there until the siren was long over.  We took the kids upstairs to bed, reassuring them we’d come get them immediately if the siren went off again.  It didn’t, but the ensuing thunderstorm was incredible.  We, thankfully, were spared the hail, though there was tremendous rainfall and lightning.  Other parts of town weren’t so lucky; the tornado ran along the northern edge of town, damaging houses and roads, and flooding prevented emergency crews from reaching everyone right away.  Emergency centers opened and a portion of a nearby town evacuated as the river rose.  Fortunately, there don’t seem to be any injuries, just property damage.  I sat at my window, stomach knotted, remembering the flood two years back and how the rain fell just like this.

This morning, the world outside is cool, heavy and still. Several roads around town are closed as they assess damage and repair electrical lines.  I have that same mixture of relief and sorrow as after the flood–grateful to be spared the damage from the storm, and terribly sad for those that did.  Feeling dismay at seeing a photograph of an intersection I crossed yesterday morning, with the tornado touched down behind it, only fifteen minutes away.  It’s a reminder of just  how quickly everything in your world can change.

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