Archive for March 1st, 2007

We are a little shell-shocked this morning, drifting about our morning routines in a sleep deprived fog.  The coffee has yet to kick in, and I have already consumed my requisite two cups.  I’m afraid it may never hit me, I’m very tired.

Last night the weather guessers looked at the convergence of a warm front, a cold front, and a dry line (their terminology) and issued a tornado watch for the night.   Like a good little ant, I dutifully stocked our tornado shelter (which doubles as our root cellar), with food, water, basic utensils, chairs, and emergency bedding.  Then I took our most precious piece of art out there also, figuring that it would be better to not be toting a paper based piece of art through driving wind and pouring rain during an actual tornado emergency.   I also packed a couple of baskets with certain items which have been put into my protection by the Universe.  The plan I had was that should it become necessary to take shelter from a storm, each one of us humans would grab one basket, one cat, call the dog, and hasten out to the shelter.

It was a good plan; not a great plan, but a plan.   There were certain omissions that became evident in the performance of the plan, and certain assumptions about the actual ease of accomplishment that turned out not to be reality based.  It was fortunate that this morning turned out to be more of a rehearsal rather than an actual emergency.

When Jim got home from work last night, we went out and had a sauna.  Earlier in the day one of my clients wanted to use it, so all I had to do was build up the fire a bit at 9 p.m., after I had done all the running back and forth to the root cellar.   Then, instead of going immediately to bed after sauna-ing, we stayed up for a while.  Well, actually, for several hours.

Having fallen into bed at the silly hour of 1 a.m., I awoke at around 5:30 a.m. in somewhat of a daze.   Rain and hail were pelting the metal awnings that shade our windows from the sun in the summer.  Faintly, and seemingly oh-so-far away, I heard a high pitched wailing sound that seemed rather familiar.  Groping through my sleep laden consciousness, my mind wandered to subjects like “What is that sound?” and “Wow, it is really raining hard!” followed by, “That high pitched whining just keeps going on, what IS it?” to finally,”I wonder if that is the tornado sirens going off?” 

Usually they sound quite loud and clear, wailing up and down the scale, but that is what they sound like at high noon on a clear summer day when they are being tested.   When the wind is howling from your place to the siren tower and pellets of rain and hail are pounding your house, they are not nearly so obvious. 

Finally, I jabbed Jim with my elbow, and said “Jim, Jim!  Are those the tornado sirens?”  He grunted, then opened a window, and after a moment mumbled, “Yes, I believe that the sirens are going off.”  Then it finally penetrated. “Gaah!  The Sirens Are Going Off!!!” we screamed in unison.

We exploded from our bed, charged with adrenalin, and the first part of the plan that was non-existent became evident.   I should have laid out my clothes the night before, with shoes even.  Stumbling in the dark, mazed by sleepiness, hurrying, I dithered.  Deciding my robe was not proper attire, I searched the floor for but could not find my clothes.  My husband made the quick (and obvious) decision to turn on the bedroom lights, which eliminated that crisis.  Clothes discovered and thrown on, I rushed into the living room and acquired possession of one sleeping cat, Mike.  Mike weighs 17 pounds, and was not pleased to be summarily roused from his couch, and so rudely, too.  I got a firm grip on him before he could really start tearing into me, and picked up a basket,  After calling the dog to me, we headed for the back door.

Out into the storm I rushed, pell mell.  “No! What are you Doing?!  Have you gone completely insane?” my squirming cat communicated to me.  “Don’t you know that it is raining out here?  The wind is blowing, and there seem to banshees!  Why would you take me out in this?”  Ruby, sleepy and bewildered, balked at the back door.  She didn’t think it was such a hot idea to be going outside either.  Jim shoved her out in front of him, wrestling with his own recalcitrant feline, Smokey.

The second part of the plan that did not follow according to the plan was the gate through the privacy fence.  The howling wind from the west was very effectively keeping it closed.  Wrestling with the gate while maintaining a grip on a cat and holding a basket was a challenge.  “Next time, leave the gate propped open so you don’t have to fight the wind!” I told myself.  The two of us finally managed to get the gate open without losing either cat, but the wind whipped it closed as soon as we were through, and Ruby was not on the same side as we were.   Not noticing this secondary defect in the plan, we hurried through the pouring rain to the root cellar. 

Mike suddenly stopped struggling with me.   I think he had resigned himself to his fate, in the clutches of a crazy woman determined to carry him out into what was clearly NOT appropriate cat weather.   In addition to all the rain, hail, and wind, the very air was still ridden with banshees  (the sirens were still sounding).  Once we were safe within the shelter of the root cellar, we noticed Ruby was not with us.  Jim went back to get her while I stayed and monitored the cats.   Smokey was frozen to the floor, a cat shaped rock.  Mike was crouched by the door, insisting vocally that it be opened immediately.  I picked him up as I heard the crunching of Jim’s feet on the gravel path outside, and he and Ruby entered the shelter.

The root cellar is not that big, and what ensued was a certain amount of jockeying for position and space.  Smokey had evidently decided to astral project his soul, leaving his solid body frozen to the middle of the floor.   Mike was circling around the solid walls of the root cellar endeavoring to discover a way to exit.  We could hear him stumbling around amongst the empty wine bottles, cursing softly.  Ruby wanted to be as near to me as possible, where I was sitting in one of our garden chairs.  Unfortunately, when I told her to lie down she was unaware that Smokey’s body was under her butt, and when that portion of her anatomy contacted Smokey, he snapped back into his body and gave her a vicious swat across her hamstrings.  Her startled and hurt bark coincided with her attempt to levitate into my lap, and Mike teleported himself back to the door and yowled for release from this hellhole he had been consigned to. 

Jim picked up Smokey, who began to relax in his lap.  Ruby settled at my feet, and Mike came over and insinuated himself onto my chest.   An uneasy peace restored, we listed to the radio for a while, awaiting the news that the tornado warning had been cleared.  The fact that I was quite wet from the rain and sitting in a root cellar that was about 50 degrees began to make me quite cold.  I remembered the sleeping bags, and broke one out and wrapped up in it without knocking over the five gallon carboy of new wine that was aging just to my left. 

The disc jockey was interviewing our local  Head of Emergency Management, who reported that as soon as the tornado sirens started going off, the Police Departmen, 911 Services,  and all the local radio stations were inundated by calls from people who wanted to know why the sirens were going off.   “People,” the disc jockey informed us rather snippily, “When the tornado sirens go off you should be seeking shelter immediately.”  I guess there are a lot of new folks in town, or something.

Anyway, the tornadic cell that was menacing us went off to the south and east of town, so the comedy of errors did not result in any deaths.  Next time, I will have my clothes laid out where I can reach them.  The baskets will already be in the shelter along with the painting that I usually take out early.   There will be some sort of way to transport cats that does not involve their claws being next to our skin, and confines them in comfort once in the shelter.  I will put my coat on before I leave the house.  We will not leave the dog behind and have to go get her.  We will remember the flashlight, or even have one permanently assigned to the shelter.

Because there will be a next time.  We live in Tornado Alley.

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