In Which I Dance With a Tornado

Good Friday, 1991. 8:30AM. Taking my shower, getting ready for work (I don't have to be there til 10).

Sharon and the children are eating Pop Tarts (TM) at the dining room table. It's storming - a typical, North-central Georgia, spring thunderstorm.

The thunder intensifies, but sounds strange. Very abrupt. No echo or rolling noise like usual. Where have I heard that before? [1] Suddenly it gets darker. Is Sharon playing a joke? No, it shold be lighter than that. It sounds like hail is hitting the house. I look out from behind the shower curtain, and the window is way too dark. The house sounds like it's being sandblasted with gravel and rocks. "Hmmm," I think, "doesn't a tornado have hail around it?" (I'm still trying to wake up.)

Suddenly, there's a C5 landing right in our bedroom! [2]

"Get to the basement!" I scream to the others. I jump out of the tub, run through the doorway, turn around, run back, grab a towel, throw it around myself, and run back through the bathroom doorway into the bedroom, just in time to see...

the front bedroom window leap, intact in its frame, from the wall straight at me!

It lands on the waterbed without shattering. (I continue to scream for my family to get to the basement throughout the rest of the tornado.) Everything outside is a shade of yellow - the yard, the trees, the road, the sky - all yellow. I wrench my eyes from the obscenity of that window and run to the hall - only to get trapped in some bizarre eddy currents that throw me around like a tree in a storm with my feet rooted to the floor.

After a second or three of this the tornado lets me go, and I run screaming down the hall. I can see into my son's room on the back side of the house, and it's fairly dark but utterly peaceful - and empty of people. I keep running and look to the right, towards the front of the house, into my daughter's room, only to see...

the front bedroom window leap, intact in its frame, from the wall straight at me!

It hits her bed, and some of the panes shatter on the bedposts. By now, everything sounds like explosions - it could be World War III. The wind slams her door in my face, and

her bedroom door leaps, intact in its frame, from the wall straight into me!

Fortunately it's a hollow core door and I have a hard head, so no harm done, but it takes a second to wrestle the thing off me. I start running again (still screaming for my family to get to safety) as I see the dining room - empty! With a gaping hole where half the bay window should be. I look to the right, to the front of the house, and - you guessed it!

both living room windows leap, intact in their frames, from the wall straight across the living room!

These shatter on the couch and counter between the living room and kitchen.

Where is everyone? Have they blown away? I begin to panic, screaming for them as I try the basement door - the knob won't turn the least bit, so great is the pressure generated against it right now by the monster. I stand there for an agonizing second or two, hollering in desperation for my family. My towel flies from around my waist, only to dance in midair like a cobra before a snake charmer, a foot or two away, just above my head. I snatch it back.

Suddenly, without warning, it's utterly, completely quiet. I can hear nothing but the doorknob suddenly turning in my hand. I rip the door open and scream, "Are you down there!!!"

A very strange sounding "Yes" wafts up the stairs.

I start down the stairs, legs suddenly turned to jello. Three steps down into the darkness, I recall the towel, and once again wrap it around my waist. I descend, and a few feet from the stairs stands my family - three sets of eyes the size of saucers being the main thing I can see in the dark. Esther is just starting to tremble - her Pop Tart still clutched tightly in one fist, her other hand in Sharon's, who also holds Josaih's hand.

"Are you all right?" I almost whisper. "Yes," Sharon replies. She gets right in my face, staring. "What are you doing?" I demand. She backs off, shakes her head. She thought the water and mud running down my face were blood. I'm apparently quite a sight - my eyes as big as theirs, wet hair going in all directions, wearing only a towel, water, and whatever the tornado coated me with.

They stay below, and I go back up. The interior of our house is a wreck. Windows & storm windows alike scattered everywhere. Walls coated with mud. Leaves, paper, curtains, clothes (a stranger's nightie), a beer can (we don't drink it!), all sorts of stuff. Water dripping from cracks in the ceiling. But we're alive! I start dancing for joy, praising God. Despite bare feet, I don't get cut.

Sharon & the kids hear me laughing and come up. The wreckage is reflected in the wonder on their faces; so is the fact that we made it.

You can also read about the aftermath.
[1] Later I recall similar thunder had awakened us during a similar storm just over a year ago - when tornados hit less than a mile away.
[2] I know this sound - I've been less than 100 feet away from a C5 running its engines on the ground at an air show. It's pretty awesome.
Last updated: 21 May 2001

Copyright 1995 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514