Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Up until eleven o'clock this morning I was going to title this entry "Last words on Tornadoes" and get back to writing stories.  It was then that I thought I heard the sirens wailing outside.  Then our executive secretary came on the PA system and ordered all employees to go to their designated areas for a tornado.  We were not expecting any severe weather today at all. Yet here they were, the tornadoes coming towards me.

After watching days of coverage from Tuscaloosa followed by footage of the Joplin devastation, your mind really shifts gears when you hear that siren and find your legs taking you down the hall with everyone else as we headed for cover.

There are three designated tornado areas in our office building.  The men and women's restrooms and the vault.  Both of the restrooms were built with concrete cinder blocks to make them safe rooms.  The vault speaks for itself.  I made my way to the men's restroom and where we stood shoulder to shoulder wondering what was going on.

I do not do well in crowded or noisy spaces.  My anxiety kicks in when I get in a situation like that.  If we are at a restaurant and it is noisy,  I tend to get really jumpy.  I start to have a hard time breathing and the only thing I want to do is get away from the noise or the crowd.  Stepping into that restroom kicked my anxiety into high and so I began the ordeal in not too good of a place. 

It wasn't long before one of us had the national weather service Doppler radar up on the cell phone.  It was terrifying what was heading towards Kansas City on that little screen.  It was a massive splotch of red, dark read, and yellow and it was heading right towards the area where we were.  It was then that my mind started going into worry mode.

Another person was reading the warnings off of his cell phone to us.  Funnel cloud reported and confirmed at 75th and State Line Road.  My wife is at 72nd and Wornall Road.which is about six blocks from the funnel sighting.  My mind started going into major panic mode.  I mentioned to someone that the location of that funnel was where Barb was and he immediately offered me his phone to check on her.  As I was starting to dial her number his phone rang.  I looked at the ID and it was his wife calling to check on him.  I handed the phone back and waited until he got finished reassuring his wife.

It ended up being only about a minute or so wait but it seemed like forever.  Finally I was handed the phone and called Barb.  She answered and said the sirens were going off but she was okay.  She was watching a television and watching the storms move through when they started looking at another spot of significance.  They said there could be a funnel at 85th and Holmes.  She relayed this to me and then said that was where Brett's apartment was.  The panic kicked in again.  (As I write this, my wife just called and said she had made contact with him and he is okay.  We had not had contact with him for the last two and a half hours since the sirens went off.  He works for a landscaping business and they were out working when the storms came through.  His co-worker was using his phone so he did not know we were trying to get a hold of him, it is going to take awhile for my anxiety to settle down).

We continued to watch the bright colors on the radar map as it moved closer and closer to us.  It wasn't long before we could hear the storm dropping buckets of rain on top of the building.  Everyone got quiet in the restroom, some looking up at the ceiling while others looked at the floor.  The noise from the rain was loud enough to drown out any hint of the sirens still blowing in the distance.

Downtown Kansas City 5-25-11, 1:00 P.M (Gary Lezak - Kansas City Meteorologist).

I think all of us were a little tense right at that time.  It rained hard for about thirty minutes before the sound began to let up and we could hear the sirens still wailing outside the building.  We still stood there waiting for the all clear, which happens when the sirens stop.  They people who were standing next to the door of the restroom had been looking down the hall where there is an exit door with a window in it.  Pretty soon what had been pitch black outside began to slowly lighten up.  We had been in the rest room for an hour by this time and my anxiety was letting me know that I wouldn't be able to stay much longer.

As it got lighter outside we began to move one by one out of the restroom.  It was fairly light outside again and so even though the sirens were still going a few people wandered outside to see what the skies looked like.

It did not take me long to follow the others outside.  I needed the air badly to lessen my anxiety.  I walked out into the parking lot and looked to the south, where my house is.  The skies were clearing.  Then I turned and looked to the north and saw the darkest most menacing clouds I can remember ever seeing.  It was the storm that had just passed over us.  The movement in the clouds told the story as to how unstable a system it was.

The only thing that concerned me now was to check on family.  I called my mom from my desk.  Everyone was fine.  My nephew had gotten their medicine gathered together and had opened the door to the crawl space under the house if they needed to take cover.  He did a good job taking care of his grandparents.  It had not come to the point of having to take cover though and everything out south was okay.

I called Barb to verify that she was okay and she was.  She was concerned that we hadn't heard from Brett and we spent the next half hour or so trying to contact him.  We finally did make contact as I described earlier in this writing.

Things have settled down at the office now and people are getting back into the task of getting our jobs done.  We had all survived.  There were a couple of tornadoes verified by the weather service and several funnel clouds over the area.  For now we are all safe.

As I look to the south though I can see another wall of very dark clouds off in the distance moving north.  It isn't over yet.  We have one or two more systems that will be moving through Kansas City tonight and they could be severe.  As with any storm though you never know how severe they are going to be until they get to you.

I looked at the pictures from Joplin again.  It is scary.  They say the tornado that hit Joplin just formed, dropped, destroyed than went back up in the clouds.  The people of Joplin, Missouri had no idea what was about to hit them.  It is scary to think that it could be that way anywhere.

This year is particularly scary.  It is to me anyway.  Maybe because a lot of it is hitting so close to my home, my heart.  Tuscaloosa, Alabama where so much of my family is and then just a few hundred miles to the south in Joplin, a city I drive through a lot and a part of my home state.  My fellow Missourians going through that disaster down there where last night while they are still trying to clean up they got hit by a storm with sixty mile per hour winds and rain..  And now this latest scare this morning and afternoon in Kansas City.

Still it isn't over as I look to the darkened south watching the next one roll in and there may be another one after it.  Here in Missouri our state motto is "Show Me".  I think we have been shown enough this year.

1 comment:

  1. People across the whole United States have been "shown"