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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.)


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 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 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?!


Hidden One said...

Is the comment, "Cool!" appropriate in this situation, perchance?

The Ironic Catholic said...

Wow--I'm glad you're OK. There was seriously bad and funky weather here in MN today. I spent some time in the basement too (nothing came of it, but there was a touchdown in SE Minn 10 miles west of us).

Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ It really was kinda cool. The most this could have been would have been an F-1 tornado if it had formed. But...still!

IC ~ The good news though is that it ripped through Minneapolis and disrupted the ELCA (or is it ECLA?) conference. But yes, scary. I wouldn't wish this weather on ANYONE. I used to live in that neighborhood and hope my friend who does still live there is ok.

Um...I think she still lives there, anyway.

Julia said...

Almost a year ago I was in the midwest, a mile or so from the apartment I was living in, when the tornado sirens started going off. I'm from an area without tornados, so I had no idea what these sirens were. It was perfectly calm, and then, yeah, the sky started looking very weird, and then the WIND started. I've never felt wind like that. And so much water that "rain" isn't even the right word. It was like a sheet of water pouring over me. I could hardly stay standing, and I couldn't see anything. It was crazy.

I made it home somehow, eventually, and found out that there had been a tornado. I found trees down the next day, right where I had been walking.

And that's how I learned what a tornado siren sounds like! :)

Glad everyone's OK. :)

Adoro said...

Julia ~ That's terrifying! So glad you're ok after that experience! God's grace, definitely!

MaryAgnesLamb said...

wow. I had a friend once who was very close to a tornado and she described just like that--the train roar sound. Glad you are all okay, Adoro!

Adoro said...

MaryAgnesLamb ~ Everyone describes that sound. Now I know why!

When I was a kid, Mom said she heard it when a tornado was near our house, but I myself didn't hear that sound. She SAW the tornado, though.

I really think this is the first time I've heard that "roar"

Linda said...

This brings back memories of the early 80's when I was in the Air Force stationed in Altus Oklahoma. I remember working in the Dining Hall as a cook and 3 tornadoes headed our way. Everyone watching from outside. I was on another side of the building and I saw another one head towards us. I ran telling everyone to get into the antiroom. We had 2 anti-room freezers. We all piled into them. My friend Sam being last to get in. I remember woman and men praying, we all started to pray "Hail Mary's". All we could hear was wind like a train rolling past us. Afraid the wind would rip the doors off the freezers. Then it stopped. As fast as it started, the wind and loud thunderous roar stopped. We eventually peeked out the doors. What we saw was no more dining room. The only thing standing was the "anti-rooms". God protected us! Can you believe I never got a medal but "Sam" did because he was the last one in the coolers. Perhaps I need to pray about my feelings and resentment for not being acknowledged as the one who yelled for everyone to get into the freezers in the first place. But praise God we lived.

I don't want to go through that again!
I am so happy you were safe.

Michaela said...

When I was little, like 5 or 6, during my piano lesson, we had an F-7 overhead. I didn't get it at the time, but now I'm thanking God our whole farm wasn't destroyed and blown away.

Kevin said...

I work across the river from downtown St. Paul. When I looked out the window I saw nothing but a gentle welcome rain. Didn't realize tornadoes were in the vicinity until a co-workers wife called and folks from the upper floors started milling about the groundfloor hallway our outside door. The threshold for "tornado" sirens has been lowered considerably in the last few years. Now if there is a little wind, we hear them.

Father Schnippel said...

Here in the 'Nati, the sound the sirens if there is a tornado watch that gets a local thunderstorm warning. It's annoying and detunes one to the sirens.

Melody K said...

Adoro, I'm glad you are safe and sound. We didn't get any tornado warnings, but we did get a torrential rain last evening which caught me out shopping. I got absolutely drenched (but I didn't melt!)

Adoro said...

Linda ~ I'm so glad you all survived and have such a great tale to tell! I have also been snubbed in that way Not via any medal in the military, but in a job while I worked in mental health. In fact...I was reprimanded for doing the wrong thing (not unethical) while the person whose job is was to do the right thing sat on her sorry butt and did NOTHING even as I nearly drowned. I and my charge were assisted by other patients.

It turned out to be a good thing, and now I wouldn't trade that situation for the world.

Michaela ~ That must have been terrifying! How did you escape!?

Kevin ~ I totally agree. I so largely ignore the sirens now because they have come to mean NOTHING. Ho hum, the siren is blowing again. Guess I'll go outside and golf for awhile.

Father Schnippel ~ The usage is only a little less liberal now. The storms that come are legitimately severe storms, but maybe not in our part of the county. Tornado WATCHES garner no respect whatsoever except for boxes on the tv screen.

Melody ~ I would have melted...