Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Storm Chasing and Tornadoes



As he always does when I’m dinking around in the bathroom getting ready for a shower, the dog parked himself on the end of the bed so he could watch. He either knows there’s a good chance that I’ll be leaving the house soon and he doesn't want me to slip out behind his back or Levi is a voyeur who likes to look at old ladies naked. He stays there until I’m fully dressed and I open the blinds. At the point he changes his position so he can look out the window to assume his role as an Early Warning System in case a rabbit tries to break into the house while I’m gone or a beach ball rolls by. I didn’t tell Levi that the snow was way too deep for either one of those two things to happen today. Rabbits are a common sight and surprisingly so are beach balls in the summer. There is something about the terrain that causes stray balls and plastic bags to come up the street and circle my house if it's windy. One time I counted a ball going around my house six-eight times before it got caught in the bushes.

The lecture at the senior hall that got canceled because of the snow storm was rescheduled for today and while it was very interesting it was also a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat reminder that tornado season is not far away. It was given by a guy who has spent his vacations for the past twenty years storm chasing in Oklahoma. During his ten days in the state he and crew are able to chase between one and five tornadoes and he was in Moore, Oklahoma when the big once struck a few years ago. He showed videos taken from inside their vehicle that day and I’ve got to tell you, I think a person would have to be half crazy to storm chase a tornado. That particular tornado killed 24 people and injured over two hundred. It was on the ground for 39 minutes and it made a 14 mile path. That day, they not only chased the tornado, it chased them.

When asked why he likes to storm chase, words like “adrenaline rush” came up and he said it was like “hunting a tiger on a bike.” In fact, he said it’s a lot like hunting in general because they have to study the terrain and weather maps, figure out where a storm is likely to pop up then hang around that area waiting for a tornado to appear so they can chase it and shoot some film. Storm chasers have died pursuing what is a hobby for most of them and, can you believe it, storm chasers even have yearly conventions. The lecturer said his fascination with tornadoes began in his childhood with The Wizard of Oz and when it came time to go to college he left Michigan and studied in Oklahoma where he got hooked big-time on storm chasing.

The photo above is of my husband standing on the steps of the farm house where he grew up. A tornado hit the farm twice, ten years apart. That last time they couldn’t rebuild. Strange stories came out of that tornado like the fact that Don’s birthday cake still sat on the kitchen table on the other side of the rubble in the photograph---not a fleck of debris on it. The only wall that was still standing upright had a clothesline attached to it and a tree and when that clothesline was cut the wall fell in. One of their horses was found miles away and a heavy china cabinet with a wave-glass front toppled over and while the legs snapped off the wave-glass was still intact. We humans are resilient creatures, aren't we. We go through horrific events like losing homes, jobs, health or people who are important to us but somehow most of us manage to come out the other side of our tragedies to rebuild our lives again.

Some men act all macho when we get tornado warnings and they don’t want to go down to the basement. Some, like the lecturer, find it fun to try meet them head on. Don was never one to drag his feet about running for shelter. After his stroke there was no way I could get him and his wheelchair downstairs, so we’d  huddle in the hallway with quilts over our heads but he’d want me to go downstairs which added extra stress to an already stressful situation. I figured we’d die in the hall but if I went downstairs and lived while he died upstairs, I couldn’t live with the guilt. You can actually see the warning alarm for the entire township from my house---it’s only 1,000 feet away---and when it goes off there is no missing it. They test it once a month and it drives Levi nuts for the full five minutes. I put my hands over his ears. He refused to go down the basement during tornado warnings and I can’t carry him so even though Don is gone, I still have the dilemma of should I go down or stay upstairs with the dog.

Speaking of Levi, did I tell you what happened to him yesterday? He’s a miniature schnauzer with a tough-boy build but he was no match for the 11.2 inches of wet, heavy snow we got. I had shoveled him I narrow path across the deck to the three steps down to his yard. But once down in his yard he got himself stuck in the snow and couldn’t move. I’ve had dogs my entire life but I never had to dig one out of a pickle like that. He was getting stressed trying to free himself from the white “concrete.” Although so much trouble and danger that can come with major snow storms, I’d still rather take my changes with them than a tornado. And as much trouble as dogs can be sometimes, I still wouldn't want to live without one in the house. ©

22 comments:

  1. Our tornado siren is just 1/4 mile away--scares the heck out of me, but it goes off whenever a tornado or a "maybe" tornado is in the County. The entire County! I want an alarm that goes off when the tornado is going to make a direct hit on me. Then I can seek cover. I hate tornado season. Those things are so capricious!
    I have never known a dog to get stuck in the snow, but....it was wet and heavy.

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    1. I hate the alarms. They are so scary and once in a great while one will go off for no reason. I'll turn on TV and see nothing. Neighbors will come out into the street comparing notes.

      I hate tornado season, too. You're so helpless, nothing much you can do but wait.

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  2. Oh, my. Losing one's house is so scary, but to be inside it while a tornado is happening is terrifying. I've never experienced something so horrible and hope I never do. We don't even have tornado sirens where I live.

    It's practically unbelievable that there's an intact birthday cake in another part of the house behind Don. But considering the source of the story, it's got to be true.

    Poor Levi. Such indignity getting stuck in the snow. Good mommy you are.

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    1. The storm chaser asked the audience if anyone had any tornado related stories to share and I shared Don's. He said he's heard many things like the untouched cake before. I've heard the science behind why things like that happen but I don't understand it enough to explain it to someone else.

      Do you live in the country or an area where tornadoes aren't common?

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    2. I live in Connecticut, near the coast. It's the peaceable kingdom around here. We just get wind gusts. Hurricanes were practically unheard of until we got two, in 2011 and 2012.

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    3. Hurricanes are scary things, too!

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  3. After bushfires, thete are sometimes houses absolutely untouched amongst a street of smouldering burnt out houses, so I believe the birthday cake story.

    Re Levi, I think I'd close the bathroom door for my privacy-tho' I'm finding that as I age my modesty standards fluctuate from prudish to ' who cares!'.

    Just read about Hillary besting Saunders. Sometimes, I wonder if she'll win ONLY because she's the lesser of the two evils (ie Trump) tho' agree the difference is negligible. What gets me is that after this gruelling LONG race to the WH, the winner doesn't get a vacation but has to start doing the hard yards!! Also, from overseas, Obama is a great plus for America (especially after Bush), yet he's not well regarded at home. Seems to me its the same story world wide.
    Libby

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    1. Gosh, I never would have guessed that about bush fires!

      If Levi ever gains the ability to talk about what he sees, I'll start closing the bathroom door. LOL

      No, I don't think Hillary is getting the lesser of two evils vote...at least not among the people I know voting for her. She's one of those people who others either love or hate. So is Obama. History will judge very well, I think. No other president has ever had as much obstructionism in Congress as he's had thrown at him from day one.

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  4. Tornadoes have always seemed to me like the scariest type of natural disaster; I'm definitely a get into the basement at the first hint of danger type. Fortunately, I've always lived in places where they are rare. I remember seeing some research once about how easy/difficult it was for people to recover from natural disasters. Floods turned out to be the most difficult and winter storms the easiest. -Jean

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    1. Floods would be terrible but I personally think tsunamis would be worse. With floods they find the bodies of most who die in them, with tsunamis that get washed out to sea.

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  5. I remember a few years ago when some tornado chasers died in the chase. It's almost in the category of extreme sports...pushing yourself beyond what is sensible.
    I agree...a snowstorm is manageable in comparison!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. That's a good comparison. Our lecturer got all geeked up just talking about storm chasing but it's hard to wrap my mind around someone enjoying something that killed and injured so many people. He said there are two crews of storm chasers who have built vehicles that they want to drive into the center of a tornado to get readings and photos. It's just a matter of time before we'll see them in the media. Storm chasers sell their videos to news people to help pay for their trips. Amazing some of the hobbies people have, isn't it.

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  6. I'd much rather deal with snow than a tornado. What an interesting topic for a lecture. I've never actually been effected by a tornado or seen one in person, but we did have a straight-line wind once. I guess that's as close to a tornado as it gets. My house was covered in debris and it moved the heavy adirondack chairs from one end of the porch to the other and took the top out of one of our large trees, but there was much more damage around the area. We don't have tornado warning alarms, but we do have a warning that comes on television. We were watching a news show when our tornados were predicted, and that warning must have interrupted about six times in less than an hour. They were really trying to let everyone know that it was serious. The light outside was so strange.

    How horrible it must be to lose your house in a tornado or fire or to be forced from your home and country as refugees are. I can't imagine losing everything. I think it must be a little easier to recover when younger.

    That Levi is a rascal: watching you get dressed and getting stuck in the snow. What an exciting life he has.

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    1. When the tornado hit Don's family farm I was living quite a few miles away and in our basement. The sky was a pea green that I'd never seen before or since. Another one came closer to me. That one ripped signage up on a near-by freeway up and a few stores by no houses. Scary power they have.

      Levi is a quirky little dog.

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  7. I don't know what it is around Amherstburg, but we rarely have any tornadoes even though we are right across from Michigan. It must be the river or lakes.
    Have a great Sunday Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. That is strange. I'm sure the experts can explain it. For us, it has to do with the warm air coming up from the south and meeting the cold air coming up from the north. There was a third element that I can't remember! LOL

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  8. My home state of Ohio had tornadoes. I saw them in the distance many times. Oregon has earthquakes. Maui has had two tsunami warnings while I've been on island. Mother Nature strikes everywhere ...

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    1. Yup, she makes her presence known doesn't she. Volcanoes wouldn't be much fun either.

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  9. I was terrified of tornados growing up in northern illinois. Never experienced one, but there were some nearby occasionally. When I moved to Washington I felt "safe", then realized I was in earthquake territory. Have experienced two of those since I've lived here and both scared the bejesus out of me. Comes out of nowhere (no warning sirens!) and everything starts to rock and roll. Very eerie. So glad neither did damage where I was but there is ALWAYS talk of preparing for a big one which is apparently overdue. (Now sticking head back in sand and going about my business. :) )

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    1. I have a 'storm bag' to grab on my way down the basement but it doesn't have much in it. Getting that time of the year when I need to check it for the season. Earth quakes would be so scary!

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  10. I think ALL disasters are frightening! Years before, we had a really hot summer and high winds - bad combination. I was in a shopping centre and came out mid-day, yet it was almost pitch dark, and eerie, with billowing smoke in the distance (and yet no alarm sounds in the mall?!). I caught the last bus back home (they stopped the service thereafter) and we drove past with the trees/undergrowth all aflame. My home was just 10km away, yet it felt like arriving in a different world. The only sign of the fire was that my potted plants on the patio had a bit of soot on them. People lost their life, pets, and homes in that fire. It was just luck that a flying ember did not land in my area - at least that year, as each summer is generally hot with the dried undergrowth a ready fuel.~ Libby

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    1. We have fires like that out West. They have got to be the scariest thing of all. Not much way to protect yourself.

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