Storms are a fact of life in my part of Iowa. A typical summer will see them come and go nearly ever day. The warm sun evaporates the water from the rivers, lakes, and crops. Big puffy clouds form in midday. By night, the clouds have banded together into huge storms that bring winds, hail, thunder, rain, and then peace. Seeing the heavy clouds of a storm front cover the sky like a dark blanket is a thrill, one that most midwesterns enjoy. Absent children, the adults will crowd around the windows, hoping for a glimpse of the extreme. Despite the destructive potential of a storm, we love its fury. For a midwesterner, the storm is our perilous moutains, our raging seas, our reminder that the earth is great and we are small.
The last two nights, during my kids bedtime, we have heard the tornado sirens. On the first night, I faintly heard the high pitched whine above the normal rabble of my family. I asked my wife if she heard it. She thought it might be the water heater. My son thought the whistling might by our whiny vents, whistling as the central fan pumps cool air throughout the house. Then we opened the door and the noise was unmistakable. Here in Iowa, the cities test the sirens every week.
The first night’s rush to the storm shelter was frought with anxiety. The kids were the anxious ones. My wife and I have been through these sirens a couple of times a summer for our entire lives. My son grabbed an armful of stuffed animal friends, and held them so tight his knuckles were white. My daughter started crying. In the crampt basement room, I held them both tight while my wife read them a story. My son says “If you are outside in a tornado, you should lie on the ground in a ball.” Then the siren ends and we break into small groups for bedtime.
The second night’s siren was less of a surprise. My wife was tracking an incoming storm system, and I saw a wall cloud on my way home from work. The storm was north of us, travelling north, with nothing dangerous dragging behind. Nevertheless, when the siren wails, you have to take you kids to the storm shelter. My son grabbed his stuffed animal friends but did not hold them so tightly. My daughter wanted to be held close, but did not cry. The boy had cried wolf once, and was about to cry wolf again. Yet we know the wolf will come, and we must listen to the boy, no matter how many times he cries false.
Tagged: personal stories