May 25, 2016

Is Your Family Prepared for a Tornado?

Adapted for a post originally shared on in 2010. 

At 11 p.m. Saturday I heard what could only have been interpreted as an unusual sound, a sound I don’t remember hearing outside of the typical first Saturday of the month test. I and the rest of the Ann Arbor area heard a tornado siren. Since the phrase “Take shelter in the lowest area of your home, away from any windows” has been beaten into my brain like Pavlov’s conditioning theory, I did just that.

It’s quite possible that at one time in my life I may have waited a bit longer before deciding what to do; however, as a mother, my instincts took over. I grabbed shoes for the family, a cell phone, a weather radio and several flashlights, and took them to the basement. I then woke my son, and carried my daughter’s limp sleeping form to the basement.

Once we were safe, my husband searched for weather updates on the television and I hit Facebook to see who may have experienced the storm. To my children who returned to blissful slumber, nothing disastrous was happening. Meanwhile I found myself glued to the television and my laptop simultaneously, searching for an answer as to what we might expect.

The rain continued to pour in horizontal sheets while thunder and lightning rocked our neighborhood with an electrifying pulse. I swear, if I would have closed my eyes and held my breath, I might have been able to feel the pressure that the storm cell and strong winds exuded upon my home - almost as if it were a breathing, living thing.

When the threat diminished we returned to our respective beds; it was only then that I was able to close my eyes with some amount of peace that my family was safe.

The relative security of the passing storm was quickly erased when the second tornado siren shattered the night around 12:30 a.m. I may have over-reacted then, however I knew that I would not be able to sleep in my own bed successfully knowing that a) the storm had not dissipated and b) my children were not safe. So for the second time that night, I prepared my children as I grabbed sleeping bags, pillows and their favorite blankets. I then offered them a “night of camping” in the basement family room, which was quickly accepted.

Unfortunately by the time I got down there, our only couch was taken up by my son’s lanky 6-year-old form as he sleepily said he was not about to sleep on the floor! I therefore resigned myself to curling up on the chair-and-a-half and realized I’d have to share its matching ottoman with my daughter, who thought that made a cool bed.

For the next several hours, I spent the night in the security of our darkened basement. Nothing could have prepared me for the awesome power of that ONE boom of thunder that I swore was released directly over our house, nor did I expect the innocence of my daughter reaching over to clasp my hand in reassurance while saying “Mommy I love you,” softly.

Sometime around 6 a.m. I awoke to complete silence and the dawning of a new morning and with kink in my neck and a crook in my back from remaining tightly curled in several awkward positions. It was then that I decided to roll into my own bed and my daughter followed, crawling into her own bed. I’m not sure but I doubt my son could have been woken up even if I held a bullhorn to his ear, so I left him there. He slept through the entire event to later exclaim that it was great to turn on the TV without getting out of bed.

I feel good about what I did as a parent, and confident that we were safe. After thinking about how I could have made better plans for a tornado warning though, I found a great website for KIDS that may have better prepared the family. It's also been helpful that my son, who is working on several Eagle Scout Merit Badges, was preparing to earn his Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge so he has guided family discussion on what he has learned. We practice fire safety so why shouldn’t we also talk about other disaster preparedness? The tornado did touch down just a few miles away from us; what if the next time it touches down in our neighborhood?

What does your family do during tornado warnings? Do you seek refuge in a basement? Do you have a safe place to stay? Do you have an emergency plan in place? What will you do next time severe weather strikes?

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