Because life isn’t quite exciting enough under a pandemic lockdown, many of us went through one helluva storm in the wee hours last Monday morning. Paul and I had watched the evening news and were well aware of the threat of the approaching storm system that had already caused devastation and fatalities throughout Mississippi and would keep an ear out for the emergency alerts downloaded on our phones.
I should say *I* would keep an ear out. Had Paul not been smacked in the head with a tennis shoe (the only thing within easy reach), he would have slept soundly through the terrifying Northridge, California earthquake in 1994. And so, when the first alert buzzed on our phones warning of flash flooding, Paul woke for that, but he was deeply into REM sleep when the second alert, blaring a tornado warning, came at 3:30. I leapt up like a Jack-in-the-box, terrified.
“Paul, Paul!” I yelled from the doorway, a cat beneath each arm. “We need to take shelter, now!”
“What, huh?” he said, sitting up groggily and shaking the sleep from his eyes. “Give me a sec.”
“We need to get in the bathroom!” I ordered. “Grab Duke and Mia.”
Our downstairs guest bathroom is the interior room that we’ve decided is the safest in the event of a tornado. But when you live in an A-frame cabin, seriously, who are you kidding? We do have a crawl space, but the thought of dragging four yowling cats and two dogs through the pouring rain and wind and shimmying beneath the deck and through the cubby-hole door into the pitch black of something like a 1930s opium den…I weighed the options in a nano-second: Tornado or spiders…tornado, spiders? Tornado!
I had pulled up our local weather guy who was broadcasting live on television and facebook, and on my phone screen saw the tell-tale bowed red line of storms coming straight at us. In fact, when Chris Justice announced, “Landrum, Campobello, it’s coming towards you, next,” it was the first time I’d ever heard our little town of 2,000 mentioned on TV, with the exception of our Christmas parade or the occasional meth-lab bust. Paul was still trying to chase down another cat as each time he opened the bathroom door to re-enter, yet another cat would bolt between his legs and flee down the hall.
“I’m going to grab some cushions off the couch,” I called, my heart beginning to pound as I heard the local fire station sirens screaming through the pounding rain and rising wind. While scooping up as many as I could carry, I had an epiphany and dashed back upstairs to grab my riding helmet.
“Is your cycling helmet in the house?” I asked Paul as I climbed in the tub and held one cat to my chest and tried to haul one of the dogs over the side.
“No, it’s in my car,” he said, looking at me oddly as he pushed the linen cabinet away from its usual position, which would have crushed us both had it toppled over.
“I figured I might as well wear my helmet,” I said, catching his look, and tightening the chin strap. “Might as well use whatever we’ve got to stay safe, right?”
“I get that,” Paul said. “I just figured you might’ve wanted to put on some clothes, too.”
“Oh,” I said, glancing down. “I forgot.”
The wind began to scream and the snapping sound of a tree behind the house could be heard. I was frantically covering us—no easy task and I’ve got the claw marks to prove it—with every cushion I could get my hands on when the calm and reassuring voice of Chris Justice broke through my terror.
“And that tornado warning for Landrum and Campobello has just been canceled,” he said. “The thunderstorm warning remains, and viewers should be aware of the potential of these straight-line winds…”
I didn’t hear anything else. The rotation in the line of storms that did terrible damage to the south of us had, poof, disappeared the very moment it was on our very doorstep. The sirens fell silent and the rain continued to lash the side of the house. But we were fine.
Naked, wearing a helmet, in a tub filled with hysterical cats, but fine.