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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tornados and Scary-Cat Dogs



Saturday was heart-pounding scary. Early afternoon the emergency sirens started ringing and they didn’t quit for nearly two hours. We were under a tornado warning---the get-down-in-your-basement kind of warning. I can see the siren for most of the township from my front yard so you can imagine how loud it gets. The dog is used to the five minute monthly testings of the siren but the longer it went on the more freaked out Levi got and it didn't help that I was running around gathering up emergency supplies. I wish I had thought about stuffing a pair of foam ear plugs in his ears. I have some left over from when my husband’s bi-pap machine kept me awake. I keep a duffle bag in the basement of basic emergency stuff, plus the dog’s travel cage from the days when I actually traveled is down there but the emergency weather band radio, a Colman lamp and a flasher for the dog’s collar I keep upstairs for power outages. I also threw in a bag my purse, cell phone, hearing aids, shoes (I was wearing Crocs), water bottles, a computer password list, essential medications and my car keys. All the time I was gathering up stuff I had the TV on in the kitchen at full volume so I could follow the heavy rainstorm and tornado sightings as they made their way up from the southeast part of the county. I was in a direct path and it was due to hit my neighborhood at 2:45. 

At 2:30 I tried to get the dog to go down the fifteen steps to the basement but he wouldn’t do it! He’d never been down more than three steps in his entire life and he picked that time to show me his stubborn schnauzer genes. I put the leash on Levi and it’s a wonder he was still breathing or didn’t have a few broken bones after I dragged him to the basement. Once down, Levi liked it better because the siren wasn’t so loud. My little nest of supplies was in the corner of the basement but I sat on the bottom steps where I could still hear the TV and follow the tornado sightings as they tracked near-by before leaving the county. But the weather people stressed that everyone should stay in our safe places because conditions were right for other, rain-wrapped tornadoes to form within the storm still going on and you can't see those kinds of tornadoes coming at you. 

When the all clear came and the sirens stopped, Levi didn’t want to come upstairs. I pulled and pushed until I thought I’d either hang him or he’d topple me over backward. I’d get him up two steps and he’d manage to get back down one. It took forever to get him upstairs and we were both stressed out when we finally made it. He weighs 29 pounds and I can’t carry him under normal circumstances and on steps I have to hold onto the rail for dear life for me to feel safe. The next time we have to do the tornado thing, I’ve got to remember to get his seatbelt harness out of the car so I can drag him by the middle of his body rather than a leash attached to his collar. 

We were lucky in my county. No one died. There was lots of damage caused by trees getting uprooted or snapped off taking power lines down---27,000 were left without electricity, 40,000 if we include all six counties where rain, high winds and tornadoes tore through. Of the six confirmed tornadoes that struck statewide, two of them hit the metro area where I live. The closest one was only on the ground for ¾ of mile and 150 yards wide before it pull up a couple of miles short of my neighborhood---a small EF0 but still destructive. Years ago, my husband’s family farm got hit by two tornadoes ten years apart. With the last, only one wall of the house was left standing and when they cut a clothesline between a tree and what was left of the house, that wall fell in. A birthday cake sat on the kitchen table untouched by the devastation around it. 

This is the first time since my husband died that we’ve had a tornado warning so it was the first time I’ve gone to the basement in this house. We’d huddle in our hallway with quilts over our heads because I wasn’t about to leave a wheelchair bound guy all alone upstairs while I saved myself in the basement. Honestly, it unnerved me to be downstairs thinking that the rest of the house could come crashing down on top of me. And if I got trapped down there with no power causing the sump pump to stop working, I’d probably drown. Okay, the power would have to be off for a long time for that to happen but if I was writing a script for a disaster movie that’s the way it would go down. Or I’d come up from the basement to find a horse standing in the living room and no roof overhead. Remember the 1996 Helen Hunt movie, Twister, where the cow got sucked up by a tornado? That actually happened on my husband’s farm with one of their horses. They watched it go over the tree line and a few days later the local police brought it back home in a trailer. He was found a couple of miles away…dazed but otherwise unharmed.

My brush with Mother Nature was nothing compared to what’s going on with the flooding down south or the fires out west but I have a healthy respect for the power of tornadoes, so I was scared right alongside of my scary-cat dog. Next time, though, if I can’t get Levi to go downstairs when the sirens goes off I may go back to nesting in the hallway. ©



Thankfully, my neighborhood did not have any damage what so ever. But these photos were all taken in the metro area where I live. The two tornadoes that touched down were rated EF1 and EF0. The stronger one was on the other end of town.

Edited to add: I just saw a news story about 17 baby squirrels that are being cared for by a wildlife rehab place. They were all found on the ground in the tornado hit areas and are being fed dog milk formula every four hours. Most were really tiny and would not survive without their mom's.

28 comments:

  1. That was an absolutely terrifying experience, and to be on your own with only the dog. Taking Levi down, and then back up again, against his inclination, would have been very tough. How long were you in the basement? and how much of a warning do you get i.e. how much time to gather your things?

    I get rattled sometimes when the house makes strange noises in the night - which is NOTHING compared to your experience.

    Your story about the tornado hitting your in-laws house is amazing - particularly the horse blown away - and then to be returned unharmed! I remember a "tornado" hitting a metro area - confined to few streets - years ago. A few people just disappeared, never found again.

    The pictures remind me of our landscape after very strong winds. Because of long droughts, the trees are prone to falling over/being uprooted. If there's a house nearby, people have died.

    Did the neighbours check on each other afterwards? Trust the rellies rang/drove by to check up on your well-being. ~ Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No neighbors were checking on each other here but I think if there had been an actual touch down and damage that would happen. When the siren goes off and there isn't anything on TV to back it up we are all usually standing in front of our houses, asking if anyone knows what's going on. Happens once in a while and it usually takes 15 minutes for TV to come up with an explanation from the township/county.

      This time, I got my first alert on my smartphone that conditions were right for tornadoes so when the siren started (meaning they've actually spotted one) I knew to turn the TV to the local channel where you could see the radar tracking.

      I was in the basement about 45 minutes. The whole episode lasted just under two hours, then I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the local damage reports come in. These weren't big tornadoes and I doubt they even made the national news here.

      I've got to change the place in my basement where I keep my emergency 'nest'. If trees fell on the house, that's the corner where they'd fall. It's an old wive's tale that the southeast corner is the safest, but I guess that's been proven wrong.

      Delete
  2. I immediately thought of you and Levi when I heard of the warnings! "Dear God, please keep Jean safe." Tornadoes scare the life out of me--I've been through 2 and in this place especially, I'd have to get out and drive up to the hospital to be secure. I always worry about my cats. They hide under the bed when the siren goes off and there would be no way for me to gather them up and take them with me. P.S. In my farm house, we always went to the south-WEST corner, so if it hit the house it would sweep the house away from that point--instead of dumping the house in the south-east corner. Poor Levi--I know just how he felt!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the prayer! I thought about posting a note that I was okay but then I decides the tornadoes weren't big enough to make the news in other locations.

      I misspoke myself above when I said my 'nest' is in the southeast corner, I meant the southwest corner. I I looked it up online on Sunday and they said that's an old wive's tale, that there isn't any one place in the basement that is safer than others. It still makes sense to me, though, given that most storms come from the southwest.

      It would be SO hard to leave your cats/my dog behind in an emergency! Most shelters aren't set up to take pets.

      Delete
  3. So glad it didn't hit you and even more glad you are prepared now if you can get the dog to understand:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I've been thinking about the pros and cons of working on getting Levi to go down the basement, but I don't really want him to get to a point where he goes down on his own either. I have enough trouble finding him when he "hides" in the house.

      Delete
  4. Holy shit. I'd have been terrified!!!! And your difficulty with Levi only adding to the stress. Poor little guy and poor you too. I remember tornado warnings as a kid growing up in northern Illinois. My dad was a "weather watcher" with a healthy respect for Mother Nature. He'd been struck by lightening as a kid in southern Indiana -- touched a metal screen door handle and and was thrown back on the porch and unconscious. We headed to the basement many times in my childhood and it always was so terrifying to me. I lived in Charleston SC for a couple of years, hurricane country, but none while we were here, although Hugo struck a few years after we left and devastated our old neighborhood. Up here in the Pacific Northwest tornadoes are rare. But I've experienced two earthquakes which happen without warning of any kind. Those were scary too! Nature will have it's way, won't it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every area of the country gets a slap along side the head by Mother Nature. We've had a few really mini earthquakes here...one that kicked a picture off a shelf but that's all. Earthquake and hurricane country would be scary to live in but worse than all of them is out west with the wild fires in my opinion. No way to really protect yourself from fire but to run.

      Delete
  5. I know it's scary. Now, I pretty much ignore it - there is no safe place for me here. No basement, no storm cellar and no ditches. I guess if it's my time, well ... Had a couple close calls, the last one was F4 and it went right behind the house. It traveled for miles and killed 11 people, one was a grandmother who lived down the road. Her grandson (a boy my son's age) took the wild ride and nearly died. The force and wickedness left a horrible path of destruction. Houses were shifted on their foundations. Sigh, not sure a cellar would have been all that safe. The sound was like nothing you can imagine - Freight train? More like a giant train going 170 mph! No basement there either - we were in an interior bathroom hanging onto the toilet. Only been in one earthquake - the one in Yellowstone/Montana in 1959. I agree, fires are bad and they can also go anywhere, spreading as they go.
    Glad you and Levi are okay and no damage at your house.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An F4 that killed 11 would be SO scary at the time and thinking about it afterward! I hope I never have your experiences. I can't imagine how hard it is to get your lives back together again afterward.

      What got me after the tornado at my husband's farm is they had to deal with people coming out trying to steal what they could pick up off the ground. Had to have someone there 24/7 to run the off until they got it all sorted.

      Delete
  6. Wow, that was scary. I grew up in Texas where they have a lot of tornados. Interesting that they do not build homes with basements there. At one time people would build underground callers separate and apart from their houses. Not everyone did that though. I can remember going to a cellar once or twice as a small child but never as an adult. I like your hallway idea better than a basement. I have a sister-in-law that's very afraid of storms. She & her little dog spend a lot of time in her walk in closet during tornado season.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My walk-in closet is right next to a tree line so I can't go in there, but that's not a bad place if you don't have a basement.

      I think Texas gets more tornadoes than we get up here. Ours are usually in the spring, though not always.

      If I remember correctly people in Texas don't have basements because of their clay soil that shrinks and swells with rain. The heaving and flexing are hard engineering issues to overcome.

      Delete
    2. You're right about the clay soil. Also, the water table is so high that there's just no way to sink a basement. In my area, the usual tides, combined with any rain, meaning flooded roads at best. There just isn't a way around it. And we do get tornadoes aplenty. I'm not a fan.

      Delete
  7. Mother Nature can always be so scary. No basements here in Maui and I need to restock my water and supplie. Also must remember to remove batteries from weather radio as they corroded in three years!

    It's hurricane season until Nov 1! And any time is ripe for tsunami11

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't keep my batteries in my emergency things. I put them in a plastic bag and use a twist tie to attach them to the handle.

      Tsunamis would be scary as heck. You get warning with those, don't you, so you can get to high ground?

      Delete
    2. So far, we get plenty of notice, usually a day .... once just 12 hours. Anytime there is an earthquake the news lets us know, as well as the likelihood of a tsunami. Good idea to keep batteries OUT and attached. Thanks for that tip of the day!

      Delete
  8. Scary.
    I have always wondered about the logic of sheltering in a basement with the possibility of debris falling in on you. I was equally sceptical of the routine of crawling under our desks at grade school and fall out shelters in the middle of buildings in case of nuclear fallout.
    I lived in Israel for a short time back in the early 70's and bomb shelters under ground were a part of life,,,unfortunately these were man made problems and not Mother Nature.
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With the worst of the tornadoes that hit Don's family farm, his mother went to the basement and they thought it save her life. Don, his father and brothers were in the barn and didn't have time to get to the house, it happened so fast.

      I remember the days of getting under school desks. Sounds so silly now, knowing what we know about fall out. I can't imagine what's it's like to live in the Middle-East with unending wars and threats of danger. We are so lucky here.

      Delete
  9. I worried about you when I saw that your metro area had been hit by tornadoes, so I'm glad to know you are okay. I know you hate the basement, so it must have been bad to get you to go down there! -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been a long time since we've have a warning so I was panicked.

      Delete
  10. I'm glad the tornadoes didn't come any closer to you -- they were close enough. I heard a news report they were expected in Michigan so with family and others I know scattered about the state I later checked news reports to see where the funnel clouds touched down. Sounds like you're as prepared as you can be should a problem occur. Perhaps if you took your dog to the basement a few times, then let him find a treat you put there for him he might be more agreeable to going down there. Or, maybe it wouldn't matter because he would sense the storm and just be scared whatever you did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The son-I-wish-I-had is coming over in a day or two and I'm going to try to take Levi down while he's here. He can carry him back up if necessary. I want to see if his seatbelt harsh from the car helps.

      Hope your family all missed the funnels, too.

      Delete
  11. I tend to follow a lot of weather people -- storm chasers, forecasts for businesses, and so on -- so I saw a good bit about your storms. I wasn't sure where you were in relation to them, but at least I know where Grand Rapids is now!

    I hate tornadoes. Give me a hurricane any time. The damage with hurricanes is more widespread, but at least you have enough warning that you can get away from them, and sit around in safety while you ponder what's going to be left when it's all over. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wondered if other areas got news about our storms. They weren't large by comparison to those that usually make the news. I forgot about the weather channel news being more detailed.

      I've never been in a hurricane, but the idea that you have warning and protect yourself would be huge.

      Delete
  12. It looks like I may be the only one, but I literally laughed out loud reading your description of trying to get Levi up and down the stairs! It's not that I didn't empathize with the stress you were feeling. It's just that I'm lying here in bed with my very stubborn dog next to me and can picture it so well. Ready to kill him, yet no way in hell you'd leave him upstairs.

    All that said, I'm glad you're both okay.

    Peggy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you laughed and even happier that you shared that with me. Only pet parents know how stubborn dogs can be and how they can frustrate the heck out of you one minute and make us laugh the next. :)

      Delete
  13. What a post. I was on the edge of my seat. You remind me of my sister who died a few years ago - very prepared. We don't get too many tornados here or earthquakes, but we get hurricanes and nor'easters. We were pretty lame about preparation when we were young, but after being without power, water or gas for days during one storm, we learned our lesson. It only took one time. We are prepared now. Thankfully, there was no harm to us, just inconvenience.

    I never would have thought about earplugs for Levi. What a good idea.

    That horse story is wild. If only he could talk... What an adventure that must have been. :) I'm glad you and Levi are okay. I would probably think about the house crashing down on top of me, too. Scary stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My theory is that the more prepared you are the less likely anything will happen.

      I've never tried to put ear plugs in Levi but I don't know why it won't work. I just hope there won't be a next time.

      I think you get more power outrages in your part of the world than we do.

      Delete