Monday. Edmond schools are closed, hockey games have been postponed, Oak Tree closes at 2 p.m. Here it comes, brother. This is The Big One.
I am much too casual about potential natural disasters, an affliction I blame on my San Francisco upbringing. There is no preparing for earthquakes. In school, we had fire drills and earthquake drills. The earthquake drill involved crouching under our desks, which is better than standing under a chandelier next to a bay window but would have been marginally effective at best in a serious temblor.
I moved to Galveston and learned about hurricanes. These provide lots of warning; put the plywood over the windows and head north. Return when it’s over and see what’s left.
I got to Oklahoma and hadn’t been here a month when I heard my first tornado siren.
“What the hell is that?!” I asked a newsroom full of natives. They laughed.
A week later I lived through my first real hailstorm, which I heard before I saw it.
“Oh my God! What the hell is that?!” That’s hail, they said. They laughed again.
Two months later there was an ice storm. I learned that you shouldn’t squirt your windshield when it’s colder than 32 degrees, that it’s darn hard to drive uphill on ice, and that neighbors across the street get really jealous when your power is back in 24 hours and they’re still waiting five days later.
2013 wasn’t my first tornado, but it was the first one that took aim directly at my house. I was on a treadmill at the Rankin Y watching dire warnings on the TV and huffing my way through a five-miler while my youngest was playing Chutes and Ladders in child watch. As the sky darkened, I thought the building looked pretty sturdy and there were a lot of windowless spaces. Besides, tornadoes always go elsewhere (Moore). Edmond has had only 10 of them — all but one confined to the west side of town — and that’s keeping score all the way back to 1893.
But the one in 2013 wasn’t going elsewhere and I decided I’d rather be at home in my own tornado shelter than at the Y.
I grabbed the 3-year-old and headed east on Second Street, watching the tornado over my right shoulder. That was fine for a few blocks, but I got near Second and Bryant and, well, it’s Second and Bryant and now we’re sitting ducks listening to the radio count down how many minutes it will be until that twister makes us the twistees.
It got close enough that the 3-year-old and I went for a fun campout in the tornado shelter. It hit the Mercy Clinic Primary Care that was under construction and on days when there’s a strong northerly wind I can hit that place with a baseball from my porch and was tracking to hit somewhere between my dining room window and my front door when it suddenly made a right turn and missed us by a quarter mile.
Edmond’s 10 tornadoes have resulted in three deaths — all of them on May 5, 1893 — and 15 injuries — all of them on May 8, 1986. Edmond’s biggest tornado, an F4 that was 1,760 yards wide and cut a 9-mile path on April 30, 1978, hurt no one.
Just to be safe, my 12-year-old on Monday used his iPhone to record the contents of his room in case of an insurance claim. I would do that for the rest of the house, but I am much too casual about potential natural disasters.
© Ted Streuli 2019