Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Did You Hear The Train Roar?
Today was a cool, rainy day up here in Minnesota. It was in the low 70's and as far as I knew, there was no expectation or prediction of severe weather. The most we were supposed to get were some massive downpours sometime in the late afternoon. OK, fine. I didn't care. We need rain.
So while at work I went online to check the weather and much to my surprise, a headline caught my attention: a tornado had hit MINNEAPOLIS! As it was, although initially they reported the tornadoe hit the city north of downtown, in actuality it was south, headed north, and did a lot of damage to the neighborhood in which I used to live.
And all I could think was, "REALLY????!!! TODAY??? But but but...the conditions just don't make SENSE!"
There was no warning, for even the meterologists were caught off guard.
The suburb of Cottage Grove also had a small area of tornado damage, and as the storm went north-northeastward, I realized that the storm seemed to be headed in the direction of the city in which I worked. (Thankfully it missed my hometown.)
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!
So there I was at work, hearing the weather sirens singing soliloquies to us off and on. What a beautiful serenade of rain and sirens.
I was watching the radar and listening to the live stream reports via my computer, so I knew the sirens were for the county and general area, but not for us. But wait! The storm shifted and then our city was briefly named as being in the path of an area of concern. Uh oh. Even though this violent weather didn't make any sense to me at all, I knew it was serious so realized we might be next to be decimated.
As an aside, my regular readers will remember a post citing my great fear of storms that arose especially after a tornado caught a tree and threw it into our house when I was a child. I've long gotten over that phobia, perhaps too much so. While we were all being told to take cover, what was I doing? Standing by my open office window, watching the sky.
I have to admit, I "felt" something changing in the atmosphere, or the pressure...something. I can't explain it. All I knew is...we were waiting for something.
First the rain slowed, and nearly stopped. There were a couple gusts of wind, each a little stronger than the last, but then even that faded to an eerie quiet.
That was followed by a sound...it was wind, from far away, reminding me of the sound of wind reverberating off of rock faces in Sedona. It didn't actually "match" the wind I was "seeing" by the evidence of the trees around the building.
But...was there a note in that wind? I cocked my head, listening, watching the clouds, watching the trees, looking for evidence...of something.
Suddenly the wind slammed into the trees, wringing them in circles, bending them over. The rain hit at the same time, sideways, and through the fog of wind and rain and cloud (?) I could no longer see the entrance to the parking lot. And....there was a roar. I have NEVER heard that sound before but...I have often heard the sound of a train. And that was it.
I slammed the window shut, shouted to my co-workers, "THIS IS IT!"
And I left my little office in the corner, passing my boss who was also closing her window and running after me. The youth minister was leaving her office, also yelling something along the line of "LET'S GO!" and our department secretary was right on her heels. As a department we ran into the hallway and found our designated interior sanctuary.
We'd all seen it. More importantly, we'd all heard it, and independently of one another, for none of us had heard the others yell, we'd fled out offices, simultaneously, seeking a safe refuge.
We've all been through storms there of varying types. But NEVER have we, or have any of us, sensed such an immediate and intense need to FLEE.
More often than not, we're sticking our heads out the window or running to the doors to watch the cool storm.
Not this time. We all seriously thought this was the Big One.
As we stood, briefly in our little hallway, we listened in silence, and I pictured my car being whirled around and slammed into things. I wondered if my car would be waiting for me in my office when we returned to it.
After a few minutes, not hearing breaking glass or anything else, I ventured down the hallway cautiously, approaching the doors.
Nothing was happening outside. It was raining, but that was it. The cars were where we'd left them. So were the big flower pots, minus some of their leaves and blooms.
I pushed through the double doors and stepped outside, while my co-workers (to my surprise, actually) hung back, not even approaching the interior doors. One yelled at me not to get sucked out! (she was only half-serious)
All was well. We returned to our offices. Our secretary said that she's amazed the bushes outside her window still had their leaves...or was even still there.
Our theory is that the area of concern in that storm had gone straight overhead, thus the rotation we witnessed, thus the roar of the train that decided to pass us by in favor of a better stop.
No tornado or even a funnel was reported for the city we were in. But...there were others who witnessed similar things and had the same opinion...it was a very close call.
I have to admit...for a bit after that, I was shaking.
Guess that fight-or-flight response does that, huh?!