Thunderstorms and tornadoes

Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist

My cell phone started ringing at 2:57 a.m. on Wednesday morning. After a lifetime of being on call for the hospital, nothing wakes me up faster than a ringing phone. I have even programmed my cell phone to sound like the old-fashioned telephones we used before we had cell phones.

When a telephone rings and I wake up, there are no cobwebs. I’m ready to hit the ground running.

This past Wednesday morning was no exception. I was instantly awake. My feet hit the floor and I was listening to the CodeRed Warning I had programmed into my cell phone. The rather mechanical, male voice told me that a thunderstorm warning had been issued for the immediate area in which I lived.

Outside, I could hear the wind howling through the trees. The rain was starting to beat on the windows and the roof. Nothing to get excited about. They had predicted this on the local news before I went to bed. There were flashes of lightening and rolls of thunder. Exactly what you would expect from a thunderstorm.

After a quick check of the house, I rolled over and started to fall back to sleep.

My cell phone started ringing again. This time it was 3:04 a.m. My friend with the mechanical, male voice was now telling me that the thunderstorms were severe. I could also expect hail. The wind sounded like it had picked up speed. The rain was heavier and the lightening more frequent. Exactly what I would expect from a severe thunderstorm.

I expected a few limbs might fall into the yard. I was thankful that the trash cans didn’t go out until the next night. I listened for a minute, rolled over and covered up, hoping that there would be no more calls.

The sound of wind and rain can lull you to sleep pretty quickly. I had just drifted off and was resuming some wacky dream when the cell phone started ringing again. It was 3:16 a.m. It was probably my imagination, but the mechanical, male voice on the phone seemed to be a little more strident this time.

He told me that a tornado warning had been issued for the immediate area in which I lived.

The tornado siren a few blocks away on Nelson Road just started it’s distant wail. I was not exactly sure what my mechanical-voiced, male friend on the cell phone meant by ‘my immediate area,’ so I turned on the TV and switched to WCPO-TV 9 to find out.

Just as I thought, Steve Raleigh and Jennifer Ketchmark were hard at work. They had their weather maps working overtime, popping out all manner of information on the storms that were entering Clinton County.

Then I heard the word I had been dreading and hoping he wouldn’t use – tornado. Steve was handed a piece of paper and he immediately read that a tornado was reported to have touched down near Ogden. Immediately, I bolted back upstairs and turned on the bedroom light. Debbie was sound asleep.

It’s impossible to gently wake someone up and tell them a tornado might be on the way. So, as soon as the light came on, I just said, “Debbie. Get up. They’ve reported a tornado in Ogden.”

In the background, I could hear the tornado siren blaring its warning. Her eyes widened but she wasn’t really focusing on anything. She was sort of like a little wind-up toy that would move forward, hit a wall, bounce off and change direction, but would keep moving. Then, hit another wall. Bounce off and change direction. Her stammering made very little sense. All in all, it was pretty humorous. That didn’t last long.

“Come on, honey. Let’s get downstairs.” As I took her arm and guided her to the top of stairs, I could see both awareness and fear entering her eyes. She was both waking up and getting it at the same time.

Our safe-room is a small closet under the stairs. We have just enough room to sit down and cover up with blankets. It’s probably the safest tornado-safe room in the house. We were ready in no time.

A few minutes later the wind and rain started to die down. My daughter-in-law, Becky, called to make sure we knew what was going on. They were safely huddled in their safe-spot.

Steve Raleigh stated that the tornado path was being extended down towards Martinsville. I called my daughter, Jessi, who lives in Martinsville and was delighted to hear that all seven of them were hunkered down in their bathroom. The girls were actually asleep in the tub. Debbie called her mom. Doris was awake and fully prepared.

Praise God. No one locally was hurt by the Wednesday morning storm. There was plenty of damage, but that can all be repaired. Lives were altered, but no lives were lost.

Everyone needs to be prepared for this type of severe weather. Decide where your safe-room should be. Do not count on the tornado sirens to wake you up. Sirens are designed to warn people who are already outside, not people who are sleeping soundly.

Get your cell phone or home phone connected to CodeRed Weather Warning alert system, or buy a National Weather Service radio. It will wake you and warn you at the same time. Be ready to call your family and friends.

For more information, contact the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency. Their website is easily found on the Clinton County website.

Preparation for an emergency is always, always time well spent.

Spend the time to get prepared.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist