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Storm of 2011
I think I can confidently say that I won’t be underestimating the power of the Missouri storm anymore.
When I was growing up in Nebraska I didn’t have much reason to fear the weather. The state certainly had its share of threatening weather, and at least once a year I could count on a tornado warning, during which time I would have to go down to the basement and wait for the warning to expire before returning to bed. None of these tornadoes ever came near our house, so I learned to not take the warnings too seriously. Thunderstorm warnings, on the other hand, weren’t even worth getting out of bed for.
This week, though, I learned just how destructive a thunderstorm can be. Erika and I first saw the storm coming when were went to bed Sunday around 10:30. As we lay in the dark, I could see through the curtain flashes of lightning. Several things immediately seemed odd. First, we couldn’t hear any thunder. The storm was so far off that the sound didn’t even carry to us, yet there was enough lightning to brighten our atmosphere. Second, there weren’t just occasional flashes. The lightning was more or less constant, and while we couldn’t see any single point of origin it was lighting up the whole sky to the north of us.
“Someone is getting one heck of a storm,” I said. Little did I know it was coming straight toward us.
Two hours later I woke up to the sound of strong winds tossing our window blinds around noisily. I got out of bed and performed the usual drill: close the windows to keep the rain from blowing into the house, then go listen to the storm from the comfort of my warm bed. Although I already learned two years ago that, yes, tornadoes can strike in my own backyard (literally), I still didn’t think thunderstorms were anything to be concerned about.
But as the winds grew stronger and stronger, and rain began to violently pelt the west side of our house, shaking and rattling the windows, I began to fear that this was no mere thunderstorm. I turned on our weather radio, which informed us that all the surrounding counties, though oddly not our own county, were under a sever thunderstorm warning (thanks, National Weather Service!). The warning included reports of 70 mph winds and large hail. As if on cue, hail now began slamming into the side of our house.
Erika suggested that perhaps we should take the kids downstairs. I wasn’t convinced this was necessary. Both of their rooms are on the east side of the house, facing away from the wind. Besides, it was only a thunderstorm. Just then two consecutive BANGs sounded from our bedroom windows that were so loud they made me yelp involuntarily. We agreed to grab the kids and get to the basement. Just then the power went out.
In moments the four of us were huddled together on the floor of our basement bathroom, listening to our pipes hum rhythmically with each gust of wind. Erika and I looked at each other nervously as we held our kids and assured them that we were safe. Eva didn’t seem bothered at all, but Daniel, who remembers the tornado, seemed a bit more worried.
Suddenly we heard from upstairs the very distinct sound of glass shattering. I immediately jumped up and stepped out of the bathroom to go see what happened. After just a few steps, though, it occurred to me that if the storm had blown our windows out upstairs, that was probably the last place I should go. I returned to the bathroom, realizing I was powerless to do anything until the storm calmed down. Instead I sat and imagined what damage was being done to our house. Was it the window by the computer and entertainment center that broke? Was a torrent of rain currently blowing all over our electronics? Or was it our bedroom window, and was our mattress now getting completely soaked from the rain? Interestingly, it was this latter possibility that distressed me most. Our electronics can all be easily replaced (with some help from American Family Insurance), but if our bed got wet, we wouldn’t have somewhere to sleep the remainder of the night.
Eventually the storm did subside enough that I felt safe venturing upstairs. I could still hear the wind blowing outside, but as I shone my flashlight first around the family room, and then around our bedroom, I saw that all our curtains were hanging completely still. Could it be that all of our windows were still intact? Another sweep around the house revealed that, aside from a bit of water on the windowsills and around our front door, the house was dry. Then what was the breaking glass I heard? I finally found a pair of storm windows in our bedroom that had blown out, but thankfully the interior windows were intact. It was a great relief compared with what I had expected to find upstairs.
With the danger now past, we put the kids back to bed. They were upset about having to sleep without the comfort of their night lights, and Daniel was particularly concerned about not being able to see his water cup, but otherwise the whole ordeal didn’t seem to have caused them any lasting trauma. After briefly inspecting the house again, righting the overturned trash can on the driveway, and drying off the windowsills, Erika and I returned to bed as well.
The next morning, with our electricity still out and no way to learn for certain if the schools had power or if summer school would be in session, we decided to wake the kids and go eat breakfast somewhere with wi-fi service. When we pulled out of our neighborhood and onto Lincoln Road, this is what we found:
(click to enlarge)
While there was never a tornado spotted in town, and the city thus never activated the warning sirens, the storm’s winds were obviously strong enough to do some very serious destruction. The second day after the storm, work is still underway to clean everything up. Our power is still out, along with thousands of other residents, and the street pictured above didn't even get crews working on it until last night. Yet, as with the tornado two years ago, we feel very fortunate that we are all fine and that our house suffered as little damage as it did.
Wow! Glad you guys are OK. I really don’t miss that stuff at all.
Straight line winds in thunderstorms can do as much damage as a small tornado. You were smart to take precautions and lucky to only lose a few storm windows and power.