Monday, March 31, 2008

spring in Oklahoma

It's 9:30am on Monday morning and I just sat down after a whirlwind morning of showers, breakfasts, lunch packing and phone calls.

With five in the family, our morning is a carefully timed and executed routine. Hubby rises first around 5:00am for coffee and a bit of solitude. Our lovely daughter is up at 5:45am for her shower and middle son is off to walk the dogs and give all of the animals their breakfast. Meanwhile, hubby is in the exercise room on the treadmill or the bowflex doing his daily workout. I am awakened by the sounds of him shaving about 6:30am. I get up to prepare breakfasts and lunches. By 7:00am the three of them are out the door. The little guy gets up about 8:00am and walks out the door about 8:40am.

This morning, we all slept until 7:15am. Our power was out after the storms came through last night.

I'm a bit of a night owl. Last night while reading after everyone else had turned in, I heard the Emergency Broadcast System's familiar beep sound over a rerun of Medium. The message scrolling across the top of the screen indicated tornado watches for a couple of counties to the west. Being a lifelong Okie, I ignored it and continued reading while Patricia Arquette dreamed in the background. Two or three messages later, I was becoming quite annoyed and looked up to see a neighboring county added to the list. By now it was 11:30pm. I could hear the storm beginning to pick up outside, heavy rain pelting the glass and the brick on the north side of our home while the wind whistled and roared. Hubby got up for a bottle of water, saw the message scrolling across the screen, and went back to bed. I heard our television go on in the bedroom, so I turned off the living room lights and television and joined him. By midnight the first storm had passed and we went to sleep.

An hour and a half later, heavy hail woke us. We turned the television on just in time for the power to flicker off for a few minutes. Quickly, the television came back on. Another storm was approaching. Earlier it looked like this storm would miss us, but we were now directly in its path. When a funnel was sighted four miles south and three miles west of us, we dressed and gathered candles, flashlights and a radio. Just as we were leaving our room to wake the children, our power went out.

We woke the children and had them dress by the light of a flashlight or candle. Hubby insists on full dress, complete with socks and shoes. I'm sure he's right, but the optimist in me always wants to throw on a robe and slippers.

I lit a candle and walked to the kitchen for batteries. Every blessed radio in this house requires a 9 volt battery. I had a package of two left over from changing the smoke detectors' batteries when the time changed. Batteries went into three separate radios from three separate rooms in the house. Nothing. Nada. Not one of them would come on. We were in the dark with the children, the cats, and the dogs with no way to hear how close the wall cloud might be or if the storm had passed.

About 2:30am, the wind and rain died down, calming to a mere whisper. I walked onto the porch in the dark while hubby went into the garage to find some news on his car radio. The only signs of life in the entire neighborhood were disembodied, moving lights. Against the dark, hulking shadows of the homes, and the dark, cloudy sky, lights moved here and there as our neighbors ventured out to check the storm as well. The floating lights reminded me of an eerie legend from my childhood, the ghost lights of the town of Alluwe, which had been flooded during the creation of Oologah Lake.

I went inside and hubby met me in the hallway. The storm had passed and we could all go back to bed.

The boys had a bit of trouble settling down, and decided to sleep together in one room. We are well outside city limits, and with the power out in the neighborhood, the night was black. The air felt close with no fans circulating the air or creating the customary night noise. It was some time before I was able to fall asleep.

The electricity came back on this morning around 7:15am. We woke from heavy sleep, the kind of groggy awakening you have after spending a restless night. We sped through our morning routine and while the children waited for hubby to drive them to school, we turned on the news. We saw pictures of that intersection four miles south and three miles west. One house had no roof, another had the garage door rolled up like a blind. A mother with her children had escaped after hiding in the laundry room of their brick home while they watched the roof blow away. "It's just stuff. We're alive," she said, looking at a child no more than three, held in her arms. "That's all that matters."

We had no idea a tornado ever touched the ground.