Saturday, April 24, 2010

Waiting out the storm....

Did you know you can have a more serious tornado watch than just a regular ole tornado watch? Yes, its called a PDS watch. That means…holy crap you better look out and nail down your petunias watch…or, in technical terms, a “potentially dangerous situation” tornado watch. We’re under one of those right now, and I’m just sitting at home waiting for something bad to happen.

You know what’s weird? I used to be super scared of storms…but today I’m sitting here kinda wanting one to happen, but at the same time, as a homeowner, insurance carrier, not super rich person…not wanting one to happen. I like the excitement and drama of tragedy, but I really don’t like the effects of it. Am I totally weird or what?

When I was in college I went through a couple of…incidents…that made me scared of storms. The first was my junior year in college. I was at home painting my kitchen, and it was raining. All of a sudden, you couldn’t see outside because of all of the wind, rain and debris flying by. My roommate was on her way home from school, and called as the sirens went off. She couldn’t make it home, so I recommended she get out of the car and in the ditch. Then I frantically tried to scoop up the cats and get in the bathroom. It was really scary. I called my mom, and she told me just to call down and it would be okay. (She didn’t realize what was going on outside.)

After the fact they said it wasn’t a tornado, but straight line winds. They were in excess of 100 miles per hour. That’s like a big ole hurricane hitting land 5 hours north of the coast. It was crazy. The roommate finally made it home, with thanks to some city workers who found her and brought her and her car to the house, and we sat in the bathroom with no power for a while. We finally got out and drove around. It was bad.

I had no more fence in my backyard, and a few missing shingles, but that was, rather luckily, all the damage to my house. The way the storm passed over, my home was protected by the ones around me. However, the bank on the edge of my neighborhood lost a brick wall. Wal-Mart, a stone's throw away, lost a big part of the roof. Some of my neighbors had major damage. A HUGE old, oak tree was completely uprooted. It was scary stuff.

Not long after that…incident…I went to work for the second summer in a row at a church camp on the MS coast. We watched a major tropical storm hit Houston and flood the city, waiting for it to make its way east. It came. We had lots of tornados, and we spent the night sitting in the stairwell of our staff house waiting to see what was going to happen.

The next morning I woke up and went to work. I had about a 2-3 block walk from my house to the office. I probably could have taken a boat to work that way. The water in the parking lot was up to mid-calf. I can’t believe I walked through that in flip flops…

Several of us checked on the 700+ guests we had on campus. Everyone was okay, but we had no power and we were flooded in parts. As the public relations intern for the summer, I answered the phones. Concerned parents and friends called trying to decide if they should come get their kids. At this point, they were okay. We just were water logged.

I worked my first crisis communication situation as a 20 about three-fourths of her way through her college education. Talk about trial by fire! I was working with about 2 hours of sleep under an intense amount of stress. I remember snapping terribly at one of my friends that day, but I don’t think they knew the kind of calls I was fielding at the time. I learned a lot about that storm, Tropical Storm Allison, to be exact. I learned a lot about being a communicator and a lot about how to handle stress in very serious situations.

I think I’m actually better at keeping calm when something super important is on the line. I mean, I totally stress myself out at work sometimes. I tend to be…a little tightly wound…to quote my boss. I know this. I’m a perfectionist. However, when it comes to a crazy, scary situation, like bad weather, I can keep my calm. Hmmmm….

It took a while for me to get over my fear of storms after that. But not long after these incidents I moved to Texas. I lived through lots of storms in my near 7 years there. I’m okay with storms now, though I do admit I get a bit nervous. I just don’t freak out like I used to.

So, I’m sitting here, watching the news…realizing we are under a PDS tornado watch, and keeping my cool. I’m waiting for it to come, but not too expectantly. I don’t think anything bad will hit my area. I know I said I kinda wanted it to, but really…if I think about it…I don’t. I like my house intact. And I just redid my yard.

I do have to send thoughts and prayers to my fellow Mississippians who have been hit by tornados today. They are out there. There has been some major damage in some areas. I hope everyone is okay.

God, watch over us. Protect us. Guide us. Be with us.


AprilJ said...

Hope you made it through the day safe and sound.. I grew up with desert monsoons, moved on to tornadoes in graduate school (Texas Tech), weathered some green skies in OK then moved onto the schizophrenic north TX weather. Nothing, however, prepared me for AK. All the rest of it was a primer. Will pray for no more cover-taking today (and tomorrow).

Sher said...

I survived! : ) Only one trip to the bathroom because of sirens. Three cells did pass over are area in about a 2 hour time frame though. It was crazy! Texas helped me get over my fears though.