Friday, July 16, 2004

Life in Tornado Alley

Well..this is a break from our normal posting style.  I was brought violently awake by a crash of thunder outside of my window, followed by the ominous sound of the tornado warning sirens.  I ran outside (yes, stupid I know) and tried to get the dog to come in, but he kept hiding under the porch and wouldn't.  So, I was forced to abandon him and run down to the basement.  Where I turned on the spare TV to catch the weather news.
As usual, the reporters were a day late and a dollar short as I watched for almost 5 mins before they mentioned that a tornado was seen touching down appx. 6 miles north of me and moving south east.  Directly by my house.  If we had to rely on these guys only, people would die a lot more from these storms.  uuugh!
As it is, after huddling wet and cold (yes, it's summer but the central air was on) downstairs for 20 mins., the sirens finally shut down.  I walked upstairs and checked out the damage.
The glass patio table was a casualty.  Even though the umbrella was closed, the wind was strong enough to lift it up and pull the table over apparently.  I now have a giant pile of glass on the deck.  The umbrella had flown off into the yard, so I grabbed it and put it under the deck. 
I am happy to report that the stupid (lovable) mutt was fine and jumping all over me with his muddy paws.
Tornadoes in general are very scary.  They are random.  They don't care how rich, how pious, how poor, how big or how small your house is.  If it wants you, it will get you.
To make this whole thing worse, last year on June 7, 2003 (almost exactly a year ago), a tornado hit my area while I was away on business in San Diego, CA.  When I landed, I had 2 phone calls:
1) "Oh my God!  A tornado hit your area and we drove over afterwards to see what the damage was and we can't get down the street because they have it closed off and only people who live in the area can drive in but we can see your house from where we are and it looks like part of your roof it gone and the McDonald's across the street is missing it's roof and part of the sign is in your window.  Call me when you land!" - Brother
2) "Don't listen to that first call.  Your brother doesn't know what he's talking about.  The damage isn't that bad.  We can't see too much now.  We'll go over and check on it in the morning."  - Sister in law
Of course, I tried to turn around and get a flight back to KC that night, but none were available.  So, I had no choice, but to go to my hotel and check in.  I watched the national news (CNN, MSNBC, etc) and tried to see what had happened, but all it would report was "tornado in KC".  I fell asleep to the television.
When I woke up the next morning, 6:30 AM as requested for a wake up call, I set on the edge of the bed and tried to focus my eyes.  The TV was still on and I stared at it blankly for a minute.  On the screen was an image of complete devastation.  Houses looked like a giant had smashed them with a fist.  Trees were blown over or had all of their limbs missing.  Cars were every which way and there were scenes of rescue vehicles and people walking around like they were dazed.
The caption read: Gladstone, __.
That is my neighborhood.  So, at 6:42 AM I was on the line to the airlines trying to get a flight back.  Got one and proceeded to call my boss and tell him that the trip was off.  he was going to have to visit the branch by himself.
Got home and found that the damage was somewhere between call number 1 and call number 2.  Part of the roof had been damaged, but it mostly consisted of missing shingles and tar paper.  One of the windows had been broken, but it was not the big picture window that faces the McDonald's.  It was a side window and only one of the panes had been broken.  The inside pane was still intact.
There was a piece of the McDonald's roof in my mom's car's front window.  The McDonald's across the street was missing it's roof completely.  Lots of brush and limbs and debris in my yard.  The bank sign from down the street had hit my garage door and smashed into a thousand pieces. 
I live on a hill.  The tornado apparently came over the top of my house, doing minor damage, and landed in the housing development behind McDonald's.  Now, I have a nice house, but these homes are the $200k-$500k variety.  The tornado had woven a path of destruction through the entire neighborhood.  In the rhyme nor reason of tornadoes, some houses were perfectly fine, while right next to it, the house had been utterly destroyed.  Some houses looked ok, but were found to have been scooted off their foundation (very dangerous).
My Dad and some neighbors had come over sometime after the storm and put plastic on my house.  In short, it was in good and livable condition compared to the folks across the street.  My insurance company processed my claim quickly and I was able to get the repairs done.
However, I learned another valuable lesson: never do business with a distant "family member" who is vouched for by another nearly as distant "family member".  That's for another story, however.
Well...that is why I find this whole damn tornado thing scary.  If anybody tells you they don't hit in the same place twice, bonk them in the head for me, will you?


Robert said...

I have to weigh this. 1. Live in tornado alley and risk getting killed or my house wiped out by a tornado. 2. Keep living in New York along with tons of LLLs. Hrm. The former doesn't seem so bad now ;). Just kidding.

Hurricanes and Noreasters are about the worst we get here. Tornados are devastating and unpredictable. Its good to see you are ok.

Kat said...

Robert..thanks for the concern. I have always considered that every area has it's trade offs. You know, when I lived in Philly, I can recall some very bitter winters and ugly ice storms and then the summers were so hot and muggy, it was nearly unbearable. I think, what made it worse was the amount of people you were hip to hip and jowl to jowl with.

In KC, the summers can get hot and the winters kind of nasty, but they generally don't last that long. .

My brother lives in off there, nice mild winters, no tornadoes, just dust storms and summer heat that can reach 115* - 120*. Some people try to fool you with the "it's dry heat" thing. Don't believe it. Once the temperature gets above 110* in "dry heat" you will burn body parts if you touch something that's been in the sun.

I told my brother, the difference between where we live is that, in the winter, I must go out and start my car 15mins early so it will heat up and I can drive. Where he lives, you have to use an oven mit to open your door and start the car 15 mins early so it will cool down enough for you to sit in the seat and touch the steering wheel.

And you, poor Robert, must live with the crazies in NY. Great theater and restraunts there. You know that's the trade off? You ever notice where the crazies live there is always great theater and restraunts? Is that why we tolerate them?

Robert said...

"And you, poor Robert, must live with the crazies in NY. Great theater and restraunts there. You know that's the trade off? You ever notice where the crazies live there is always great theater and restraunts? Is that why we tolerate them?"
I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but people outside of New York generally can't make pizza well. (So many of us damn Italians, eh?)

Actually, I live on langiland (as the Natives pronounce it), which has a decent amount of sane people.