Saturday, July 29, 2006

Oh, Crap!

"Oh, Crap!"
That's what went through my mind this morning as I awoke to the sound of a siren that warns Rice Lake about severe thunderstorms and tornados. Around 5 AM, the siren started blaring across the street from us. It had gone off earlier this week during a tornado watch. My wife and I were not home to hear it. This morning, we were. My wife and I jumped out of bed and started getting dressed. The kids awoke on their own with all the noise. Being so close to the siren, we had to shout to hear each other through the droning sound. We still had a bag packed due to the bad weather earlier this week, so my wife grabbed it to head out. My mom has a little bag with important papers that she grabbed. We ran downstairs with some relatives on the ground floor. My son grabbed on to his mom for dear life and refused to let go. My daughter was home during the first siren, so she knew what the siren meant, but was still scared by the significance.
The first reaction you have when you awake this way, siren blaring, is to run. Thankfully, cool heads prevailed; it would have been embarrassing to go outside in minor articles of clothing. Once we were ready to go, we went outside to see from where the threat would originate. In the dark, with no breeze or rain, this is nearly impossible. After making sure everybody was downstairs, I went back up to our apartment to check the Weather Channel. Our relatives have the weather channel through Dish Network, which is not local. We have cable, so our weather channel has local updates. Sure enough, there was a ticker at the bottom of the screen giving us the details about the severe thunderstorm warning. It was headed our way from the direction of Cumberland. After a while, the siren turned off and silence settled in. Our neighbors and we were outside watching the skies for any bad signs. I went in and out to check the skies and the latest updates on TV. I'd like to reiterate that this is a horrible way to wake up in the morning.
Given our innate tendencies to seek more information and to be prepared, my wife and I decided to buy a radio that receives NOAA broadcasts and runs on batteries. This time around, I was able to check the TV. Had the power gone out, we would be clueless as to what to expect or how long to worry. Radio Shack has some walkie talkies that have a 10 mile radius and receive NOAA broadcasts. These would be really handy for both information and communication should things go bad. We may get those later. For now, we got a cheap little radio from Wal-Mart with a button that instantly tunes to the weather broadcasts. I need to buy stuff to tune up the van we recently bought, otherwise I would spend the extra money for the walkie talkies. We will also be going over LED flashlights this weekend. We did not bring our flashlights with us, so now we have to buy one. We prefer LED lights because their batteries last forever. You can leave them on for a couple days and they'll still be lit.
In the end, the severe weather system blew over us with no incident. It was traveling at 45 miles per hour, giving it little chance to dump its fury on us. The severe weather warning ended by 5:45. Back home in the Rio Grande Valley, we have lots of time to prepare for a hurricane. In the case of a tornado, you have to have your systems in place all the time. You can't afford to put it off because everything happens so quickly. Hot weather is a perfect breeding ground for tornados, so we may have more loud awakenings in store. One can only hope that the season passes without event and that we are sufficiently prepared should the worst happen. Personally, I prefer a hurricane over a tornado. The days of forewarning hurricanes offer give you plenty of time to prepare or get out of town, despite what some people would have you believe. If you have a Cat 5 hurricane coming at your direction, what do you think is going to happen? Whatever the case, you too should be ready for the worst.

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