Siren’s Call

Ahh…spring time in Iowa.  Birds chirping…the pleasant sight of the land turning from brown to green…the warmer days and lighter evenings that makes for more enjoyable weeknights…the subtle scent of blooming flowers slowly replacing the smell of wood fires…

…the sweet sound of tornado sirens blaring, warning you to take cover from the approaching storms…

Eerie storm clouds gather above the farm last fall.

{Record Scratch}

That’s right…it’s that time of year again here in the Midwest.  High above our heads, a constant battle is being waged as warm, moist air from the south struggles to drive off old man winter and his numbingly cold north winds.  Temperatures in the upper sixties on Monday plummet into the mid-twenties by Friday, and three fresh inches of snow coat the newly-budding lilies.  This unstable atmosphere creates the perfect environment for severe hail producing, down-pouring, and even occasionally tornado-spawning thunderstorms.  Yes, spring storms in Iowa rank right up there with death and taxes as one of the few certainties in life.

(Daily Randomness:  It’s a true fact that schools in Iowa have “tornado drills”…which is so weird to me, as I had only grown up with fire drills in school.  Do kids in Florida have hurricane drills?  Do Californian’s have earthquake drills?  It really makes you wonder!  But…I digress…)

March 22 Weather Radar

Still, even knowing this, the only thing we hadn’t counted on was that the storms would be firing up so early in the year.  Yet there we were this past Tuesday night, watching the forecast with one eye and the ever-darkening sky with the other…not even a full two days into spring.  However, soon it became clear that everyone in the house (Missy, Grandma Cindy, Grandpa Steve, the girls, and I) would need  to put into action our emergency preparedness plan as the first big storm of the season bore down on central Iowa. (Image via NOAA)

A dirty, cramped crawl space beneath the garage serves as the true tornado shelter for the Florer’s house, yet it has rarely been utilized and is reserved only for the most epic storms (the “you can see the tornado on the back forty and it’s heading straight towards the house” kind…think Dorothy).  The more realistic place to go during a severe storm is the master bathroom off of Steve & Cindy’s bedroom on the first floor.  Its lack of windows, cast-iron tub, and the many walls that stand between it and the outside make it an ideal shelter for most severe storms that head our way.

Typically, spring storms don’t require much action, it’s just that this particular one was already producing small tornados outside of town and was on a line heading straight for the southwest side of Des Moines… a.k.a. the Florer Farm.  So Missy and I grabbed the girls, our laptop, diapers, bottles, and blankets, and hunkered down with Grandma Cindy in her bathroom, while Steve continued to watch the forecast in his adjacent bedroom, ready to dash in if things turned from bad to worse.

Blissfully unaware...

Being entertained by Sesame Street.

{Despite the appearance, we’re not actually hoarders…we had to act fast and shuffle things around, as well as move everything down off the walls and shelves.  Grandma Cindy’s bathroom doesn’t usually look this disheveled, we swear.}

Luckily for us, the storms never reached their full potential and soon fizzled a few miles from the house, just as they approached the outskirts of the city.  Inside the bathroom, the girls, who at first were enjoying this fun new adventure, had started to go into meltdown mode.  They would have reached it a lot sooner if not for a quick-thinking grandma who distracted them with Sesame Street YouTube clips.  Grandpa Steve soon gave the all-clear, and up to bed the girls went…that was enough excitement for one evening.  Even though there was never any imminent threat, it did give us a good chance to practice what to do would do the next time there was.

And even though we all felt fairly safe inside the bathroom, I’ve now realized that there is no way we are NOT building a basement with our new house…even if it takes three sump pumps to keep it dry during the rainy seasons.  Just having that extra security blanket (and being comfortable when utilizing it) puts this non-native Iowan a lot more at ease, especially if the time ever comes when Missy is home alone with the girls.

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Disclaimer to all our east-coast friends & fam:  yes, living in “tornado alley” has its risks.  Honestly though, in the six years that I’ve lived in Iowa, I’ve had to seek additional shelter a grand total of three times.  And all three times have been “just in case”…no tornado has ever made it anywhere near where I was.  I’ve never seen a tornado “live”, and Missy has seen maybe one or two in person throughout her whole life here in Iowa.  Clearly, we aren’t just rolling the dice with our living location, and as long as we diligently watch the weather when conditions are right, as well as take heed to when we are told to seek shelter, there is no reason to ever have to worry…promise.

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About Tom Hardinge

Loving husband to my wife Missy, loving father to my four daughters Sienna, Rowan, Jovie, and Lola. I'm a chronic over-packer who loves good coffee, good music, running, waffle tee's, fleece pants, and Jesus Christ!

4 thoughts on “Siren’s Call

  1. It got crazy here in Hagerstown the following evening through the next morning, crazy lightning etc. for this time of the year. Basements are a good thing and I have spent many a storm in them. Your decision is a good one…peace of mind is priceless (so is Sesame Street!). Tornados fascinate me as they do many, I would love to see one…that was out over the ocean. Take care, love you, mom xoxo

  2. Pingback: Out Like a Lion | living in pursuit

  3. Pingback: Close Call | living in pursuit

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