Friday, March 16, 2012

Attack of the killer tomatoes

1. Snuggling, 2. Sitting on the laundry basket and covering her ears, 3. Distracting her with pretend camping with our camping equipment

It was Sophie's first tornado (or in her words, "tomatoes", which she distinguishes specifically from the vegetable/fruit) warning. Things started when I picked her up from daycare- Ann Arbor was already under a tornado watch so adhering to standard practice, all the children were in their designated shelter areas within the building. Sophie and her classmates were in the babies' napping room and when she saw me, Sophie excitedly shouted, "We're having a tomato drill, Mama! Come join us!"

I don't think she had any clue what a tornado was then and just knew it was something for which they'd occasionally have a drill to prepare. I bundled her into the car and by then, it had already started to rain and the sky was darkening threateningly. In the car, I explained to Sophie that tornadoes are huge funnels of wind that can sweep things away and that when we get home, we have to go down into the basement for a while just in case a tornado came by the house. She got really quiet and just watched the rain come down outside. By the time we reached our parking lot, the city-wide tornado sirens were already going off and bits of hail started pelting down on us. That was when Sophie started getting a little scared and shouted, "Tomato sirens, Mama! Tomatoes are coming! We have to go to the basement! Hurry! Hurry! Protect me!" I had to laugh as visions of projectile cherry tomatoes came to mind...

We got home and I managed to grab some milk and crackers for Sophie and my phone before heading down into the basement. By then it was about 6.00pm and the National Weather Service's statement was that the tornado warning would only be till 6.30pm. We sat as far as we could from the basement window as Sophie clung tightly to me. Between the tornado sirens, the rattling of the windows, thunder, and the pounding wind and hail, she was petrified. We listened to a bunch of Jack Johnson and The Beatles on my phone just to drown out the weather sounds and I think that made her feel better for a while. She was still clingy and scared though and kept her fingers in her ears for most the hour that we were downstairs. She would try to be brave and say, "I'm not scared. Mama and the basement protect me." But then she'd hear a rumble of thunder and bolt into my arms again. Poor baby...

I kept checking the local newspaper reports and found out that not only was the tornado warning extended to 7.15pm, a tornado had actually made land in Dexter, a town about 20-minutes from us (click here for images of the destruction it caused). Funnels were also being spotted all across the county. To make things worse, Jude was at that time, sitting in a plane in Minneapolis, not being able to take off to come back because of the bad weather here. We texted back and forth to keep him posted and he even took a photo of himself making a funny face to make Sophie feel better. It worked :) He also suggested that I take out some of our camping equipment and do some pretend camping to distract the poor girl. So out came the sleeping bags and a couple lanterns. They worked like a charm and before I knew it, mischievous, giggly Sophie was back as she rolled around the sleeping bag, playing peek-a-boo and pitching a pretend tent.

It was finally 7.15pm and I checked to make sure that the warning had really expired before bringing Sophie upstairs. I looked outside and while it was still raining, there were no signs that a tornado had hit any where near us. Sophie was fine by now and it seemed like she had almost forgot how scared she was just barely an hour ago. Thank god.

So there-- our first near-tornado experience. It got quite nerve-wrecking there for a bit and I really was half-expecting a tornado to make land closer to us. And while I'm relieved that none did, I do feel for the folks out in Dexter. News reports say that there are no deaths or serious injuries there from the tornado but I can only imagine how hard it must be to see your home in ruins like that. Our warmest thoughts go out to the folks out there.

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