It was accompanied by panic and chaos.
My phone suddenly goes off. An alert has been issued by the National Weather Service. It tells me nothing more, just to seek immediate shelter. I, of course, go outside, skipping and clapping like the naughty child I am. And see nothing to indicate a tornado was in the area. Well, it could be rain wrapped, but the temperature and pressure wasn't right. I went back into the shop and looked at the radar. Maybe there was a hook forming on the backside of this storm, but it wasn't very structured. I texted Small Farm Girl when nothing was said on the radio station, and the fire alarms had been running for ten minutes without a rotation. Husband and I waited. I played on the computer, he looked bored. Checking over the radar once more I informed Husband if there was a tornado, it would be a weak one, here, west of us on the Ohio river.
The rain tapered off and the winds calmed. Nothing abrupt, just a normal storm course. Husband and I went about our business. He had to make a run to Ohio and I held down the fort. After a bit, our rag delivery man showed up with pictures. A decent sized, albeit poorly structured, tornado had touched down in another town. Doing some damage. I hope everyone was alright, I told him.
I informed Small Farm Girl of the tornado, and was then informed that a funnel had been spotted on the Ohio, where I told Husband one would be. The day turned muggy and the interruption of life was quickly set aside.
The chaos was in the schools.
At the time the sirens were sounding, I received an automated call. One thing we were always taught was to stay off of landline during such storms. But it was the school system, so I answered. The kids were all on lock down and we were not to come get them. Well that's a no-brainer. I need to remember I'm not in Kansas anymore. And that fact was reiterated to my boys.
Small's elementary school was dangerously chaotic. Small said it was confusing. Having had years of training on what to do in this situation, it now is a habit. He knows where the best place to be, how to protect yourself, and to remain calm. He told us that the kids were screaming and crying, loudly calling to Jesus. One wasn't able to hear instructions from the adults. He was pushed and elbowed in the ribs as children frantically scrambled to be where they thought they were to go. Inside of the school became more dangerous than standing outside in the storm.
Medium's middle school faired little better. The kids thought is was merely a drill. The laughing and play drowned out any instructions that the adults had for them.
Large's high school did nothing but place the children on in class lock down. They were to remain in the rooms until further notice. Large found being trapped in a room with windows during a tornado warning absurd. He did however lighten the mood by apologizing, and claiming he didn't think the tornado would find him here.
Since we have been here, there have been numerous watches and warnings. The schools have tornado drills, as does the state, once a month. It makes no sense that they are so unprepared. I understand that tornadoes rarely touch down, however they have actions in place for such an event yet are unable to execute them smoothly. They may not have the large dangerous tornadoes that Kansas has, but the chaos created by a funnel is in itself, dangerous. Without the calm, without the ability to know what is actually happening, the people cramped together in panic and confusion can lead to something more than a mere uncomfortable situation.
I was terrified once, like these kids. It was in 1991, a mile wide F5 tore through the suburb I grew up in. I prayed as we hid in the octagonal hallway, mattresses, pillows and blankets shielding us from debry that may fall. It was half a block from my home, the sound of a freight train was barreling down on us, our ears popped, and our eyes ached from the pressure.
The boys compared the tornado experience in Kansas to our funnel experience in Kentucky. And just as I remembered my school days in tornado alley, hallways were quiet, or kids talked in hushed tones, walking single file. They lined the hallways, facing the wall. Sitting on the ground, knees tucked under, they bent in half, chin to knees, and arms covering their heads, waiting for the all clear. If you were lucky, as I was in middle school, the locker rooms were bomb shelters, or as in Large's case, and actual basement. Small's old elementary had built a new gym, it was a safe room. It didn't matter if you were in a safe room gym or in a cinder block hallway, it was quiet and a controlled atmosphere. You needed to hear the instructions, you needed to hear the storm.
It isn't an everyday occurrence in Kansas either. One could argue that because we have them so often that the kids are use to it. That isn't completely accurate. Tornadoes in Kansas tend to happen after 6pm. Normally during dinner time. When the temps start cooling is when severe weather ignites. Occasionally one does go off during the day, catching our kids at school, sometimes it happens in the dead of night. But those are rare. In our part of Kansas, kids had practice drills once a month. Tornado season lasts three months, a rare fall storm may create a tornado, however typically April, May and June (well end of March beginning of June) is the peak season. Straight line winds and micro bursts are much more common. In the 12 years we were at the Neophyte Homestead, the town closest to us had many warnings, but no tornadoes ever touched down. In the surrounding country side, several touchdowns had been reported over the years, yet none at the homestead. The major city we were close to had a touch down in it or just outside the limits every year. As a child, my suburb had multiple tornadoes touch down yearly.
My boys understand the seriousness of a tornado as it is part of our up bringing. That is typical of generational Kansans. We learn the signs, we know the feeling, we can smell it coming. The funnel in this storm was an after thought, if it had hit anything but a river, it would have done similar damage as straight line winds. No one would have ended up in Oz. I have no news on the one that did hit the town, but from looking at what pictures people have shown me, I would say that any damage that had been done was more due to improper preparation; having things laying about, rotting homes, shallow tree roots, panicked people. It looked like a large dust devil.
I am by no means trying to belittle the people here. I for one am unprepared for a forest fire. If I can't get out by using my driveway, well I am in the creek. I have no idea what to do for a mudslide. . . Yet these things don't seem to crop up in conversations. They aren't frequent, like tornadoes. My gritch is with the school system and the way the chaos was handled. It shouldn't have gotten that way, not with the fact that they do drill for such an event.
And then Small decided to scare the heck out of me.