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My area of NE Tennessee experienced tornado touchdowns and warnings last Sunday evening. Shortly after my phone sent out a loud alert signal, the nearby university’s public warning signal began shrieking. The alert on the phone said: “Take shelter immediately”. Damn! I had 5 people coming for dinner in less than an hour and I wasn’t through cooking! I find it amazing now that that was a concern, but it was early in the game and I was still not convinced the tornado was going to materialize. Quickly turning on our weather radio and the television, we could see and hear all the details. Realizing I had ‘some time’ I began to run through my head what we needed to do to stay safe. I immediately filled my washing machine with a full load of clean water, turning it off just as the wash cycle began, then filled the bathtub too. I had previously stored drinking water, but doing those two things gave me another fast and easy 75 gallons of clean water, just in case it was needed. While the tub filled I called my daughter to alert her and offered her advice to move to her bathroom and to take her cat and bed pillow too, so that she could hold the pillow over her head should things start flying around. To calm her fears I explained she should sit in the tub, with pillow over her head and head between her knees. I finished my detailed instructions with some sick humor by saying “and then kiss your ass goodbye”. We both laughed and felt better immediately. Michael went to our root/storm cellar, plugged in our sump pump in case it began to flood, turned on the light and unplugged the dehumidifier. I kept cooking…
Between stirring and chopping, I listened to the radio, watched the darkening sky outside my kitchen window, and went over in my head what else I should do in the next few minutes. Gather important documents? Take food to the cellar? Find my cat? I continued to listen and cook…
As you already know, we were lucky, so very lucky. The tornado touched down about 9 miles from us, barely stirring the leaves on the trees around my house. We got a sprinkling of rain out of it while others lost their homes, cars and security. Our little dinner party turned into more than just a meal with close friends. It became a Thanksgiving celebration on a July evening, so grateful were we all to be skipped by the tornado.
I learned my lesson though. I’m better prepared now. I realize I’d much rather ‘shelter in place’ than go to a public storm shelter, even if my space is just a small room under the kitchen. I’ve moved a transistor radio to the cellar and hung two fold-up, comfortable-enough-to-doze-in canvas sling back chairs down there too. I added a lantern that can be run on batteries or by winding a crank. I bought a box of granola bars along with some other eat out of hand snacks but I’m looking for a rodent proof metal box to store them in before I move them down. I’ve emptied my ‘old’ stored drinking water and refilled my containers with fresh water and I’ve started making hard copies of all my important documents: driver’s license, credit cards, social security cards, wills, and so forth to store in a water proof box. Now, maybe I should add a pillow too, in case I need to put it over my head, put my head between my knees, and kiss my ass good bye?
P.S. It seems bad weather events are a really good starting point for opening a conversation with a neighbor about ways you might weather the next one together, helping one another to prepare for sheltering in place. These kinds of events lower our vulnerability while raising our awareness of how important community can be. More on this in my next post.
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