Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Know the Signs

Last week, I passed a radar sign trailer...one of those large digital display boards posted on a two-wheeled trailer, set up on the shoulder of the road. Usually, these radar sign trailers are set up to provide information about upcoming road closures, road work ahead, or even to clock the speed of oncoming cars. Not this sign. This sign read: "Are you ready for severe weather?"
It was alarming.
I always try to be ready for severe weather.
When I was a kid, I was terrified of tornadoes. As soon as the local TV weatherman issued a tornado watch, meaning that "conditions are favorable" for a tornado, I went downstairs to the tornado shelter I had constructed. I could not convince my parents to join me.
"It'll be fine," dad said. "It's just a watch, not a warning."
"But, dad, conditions are favorable. FAVORABLE!" How could my dad not understand that "favorable" meant the atmosphere itself wanted a twister.
I used scare tactics to make my little sister join me.
In the tiny hall outside the downstairs bath, I had stashed all my tornado shelter supplies...radio, blankets, pillows (to sleep on, but also to cover our heads with if needed), 'Nilla Wafers, flashlights with extra batteries, a big stack of books, and some stuffed animals.
During most tornado watches, we stayed there for the better part of an hour...or until my sister got bored and dared to go back upstairs.
At school, I was the best at duck and cover. I could curl my usually inflexible little bones into the tightest ball, covering my head protectively with my arms. During the drill, I was so still and quiet that I barely breathed. I felt stiff afterward. I liked to think that I looked like a tiny, weather-aware statue...a textbook example of exactly what to do in a weather emergency.
I felt as if my teachers did not take the drill seriously enough; and I worried unreasonably about the possibility of a tornado touching down on our playground during recess. I remember actually coming up with a tornado plan for outside and convincing one of my friends to practice the drill with me.
"You have to be aware of the signs," I told her, scanning the blue sky overhead. "The sky will look kind of greenish; and we may hear a sound like a locomotive."
Looking back, it was a horrible plan that involved my friend and me shaking the foundations of all the playground equipment until we found the sturdiest. In the event of a tornado, we would grab hold of the base of the jungle gym and hang on for dear life.
Last week, I was so exhausted, that I slept through a storm...for the first time in my life.
I did not stay awake like I usually do, the ghostly glow of the TV filling the bedroom, sound on mute as I strain to see the counties in the watch area scrolling across the bottom of the screen. I did not hear the emergency broadcast warning on my phone. I did not hear the thunder rumbling, the wind roaring, or the rain pelting the window. I slept through a storm.
When I woke up the next morning, I actually felt guilty about it.
A couple days later, I drove past the radar sign trailer.
"Are you ready for severe weather?" it seemed to be asking me...personally.
I wondered if I should circle around and read the sign again. I had never seen one of those signs with that type of message. Maybe it was a message just for me. I was losing my edge, clearly, in the area of tornado-preparedness. I decided against circling back. If the sign really did say, "Are you ready for severe weather?," then I would have wasted several precious minutes in a busy day. If it didn't say that, well then...
Let's just say, I will be back to my usual hyper-aware weather vigilance next time there's a storm in the area. After all, I know it's important to be aware of the signs...er, well...the sign, that is.


  1. When I moved back to Alabama my parents scared my daughter to death about the threat of tornadoes. She's pretty used to the watches and warnings now, but we always take them seriously - because weather is unpredictable!

  2. We don't get many watches or warnings here, but when we do we gather up the cats and head to my shop in the basement, the only windowless room in the house.

  3. We don't get many of these,. either - they do sound rather terrifying

  4. We don't get many of these,. either - they do sound rather terrifying

  5. I think you are one of the most ready for severe weather persons on the planet. Tornadoes are not to be messed with, but I will move my purse and computer to our interior bathroom if there is a warning. Had to laugh at the young Lori's approach to storms.

  6. Lori, I have never experienced a tornado but once experienced a hurricane warning that made us all retreat to the basement away from the windows that we had to mark with an X of tape. I think you were rather ingenious when you will little. Knowing the signs is important.

  7. Tornado watches and warnings scare the living daylights out of me. We have them all the time here in Central PA and they frighten me. I try to be prepared with a wind-up radio and lantern. But really, I'm just a big ball of nerves when the sky turns that horrible greenish-gray.