Today Kansas City was rocked with some pretty severe weather. Thousands of people were herded into basements, hallways and bathrooms, hoping that a tornado wouldn't touch down and repeat the damage and devastation in Joplin.
Here is my experience:
Around 11:00 this morning, I hop in my SUV to meet a client for lunch and disucss a project. Our lunch is located in Overland Park KS, approximately 15 miles from my house. As I got ready this morning, I barely even noticed the severe weather warnings. Yes, there was some information crawling across the bottom of the screen with the words WARNING and SEVERE and ACTION PLAN...but I didn't have time to look at those.
(I'm one of those people who wears fluffy, light skirts on windy days and chooses to flat iron my hair when there's a 99.999% chance of rain. I am oblivious to weather predictions. Unlike my mother, but that's another story.)
Approximately 4 miles from my destination, heavy rain begins to splatter on my windshield. I think to myself, "Hmmm, the sky looks a bit iffy. I wonder if there's a severe thunderstorm warning or something."
I switch from a CD (the artist of which I will not share with you because it's too embarassing) and tune into a local radio station.
BEEEP, BEEEEEEP, BEEEEEEP!!!! Really, I only needed the one beep to pay attention.
Seconds later, a robotic voice informs me that yes, the city I just entered is now under a tornado warning.
I'm not going to lie. I begin to hyperventilate. My palms begin to sweat as I completely ignore the road for a solid 10 seconds and examine the sky. As if I have the slightest clue as to what I'm looking for. Gary Lezak is always talking about funnel clouds, but do I actually know what they look like? And what about those hooky echo-y things? Should I look for those?
But then I think, "Overland Park is a big area. I mean, what are the chances that I'm in the exact right spot for this thing?"
The robotic voice then me that between mile marker 67 and 80 is in the direct path of the tornadic activity.
I'm on mile marker 78. Holy shiz balls. I am going to die.
For the next few seconds, I ponder if Hubs will miss me when I'm gone. Then I realize I'm totally passing my exit. I whip the car off the highway like I'm auditioning for NASCAR and pull into my lunch spot, Blanc Burgers.
(Which, FYI. Yum.)
The rain has almost completely stopped as I walk into the restaurant. Hooray! I'm safe! Scary stuff is over!
Then I walk in, and every single customer, server and bartender is glued to the television, which is showing an HD feed of a tornado forming basically right over our heads.
I take a seat and order a Dr. Pepper. If I'm going to die, I'm going down with Dr. Pepper in my stomch. But I never get my drink. The manager/owner/person in charge at Blanc comes to each table and calmly informs his patrons that we are now going to evacuate to the downstairs.
I'm not prepared to say that I shoved to the front of the line to go downstairs, but I'm also not going to say I wasn't. Blanc man leads us through the kitchen (immaculately clean, by the way) and down the concrete stair well. I breathe a sigh of relief at the though that I'll at least be in an enclosed basement. I walk through the final door...and find myself at the mouth of a parking garage. So maybe not so safe and enclosed after all.
And there it is. The giant funnel, swirling and twirling, disguising itself as a beautiful phenomenon when it's really a potential storm of death ready to come and eat me alive with its scary cloudy jaws.
I walk up the parking ramp to the outside and whip out my phone to take video. Cuz that's safe.
As I finish video (which refuses to upload on my blog), I take in my surroundings. Everyone around me is with a friend or co-worker. My lunch appointment had stayed behind at her office (and rightly so), Hubs is at work, and I don't know anyone.
I suddenly have visions of a tornado dropping out of the sky and sucking all of us into it's windy funnel, rudely plopping us four miles away through the brand new skylights at Oak Park Mall.
I dial Hubs. No signal. The cell towers capabilities are clearly crippled with the thousands of people calling their loved ones. I quickly summon my expert "Radio Contest" strategy and began dialing Hubs once every 15 seconds. On the eighth try, I finally get through.
"Hi, babe," he answers.
"It's me!" I breath into the phone. "Thank goodness I got through! I am literally watching a tornado form RIGHT NOW."
"Really?" He replies. "That's cool."
"It is NOT cool," I hiss into the phone. "I could die at any second if this thing touches down."
"Well, go back inside then." Men are so annoyingly pragmatic.
"No!" I say back, kicking at the concrete. "I mean, it's kind of neat to watch it. But really, I could die."
"You're not going to die, Kim. Can I call you back?"
I am disgusted. I could be Twister'd at ANY second. This might be our last phone call to each other EVER. And he wants the last words spoken to his wife of nearly four years to be, "Can I call you back?"
"Sure," I shrug my shoudlers. "I mean, if you have something more important to do than speak to me while I witness a potentially huge F5 torando, you should do it."
"Okay, I'll call you back in a bit. Love you!" Click.
I bet Ryan Gosling would have told Rachel McAdams how much he loved her final phone call on earth, but whatever.
As I stand there and prepare for my exit from this world, I start to think. This is the first "real" tornado situation I've ever been in on my own. I mean, when I was a kid, tornadoes were always experienced with my family. And I sure as hell never saw one. Mostly because Mom shoved all three kids under the stairs, covered us with a mattress and ran back up to my dad screaming, "IS IT HERE??? BILL!!! IS THE TORNADO COMING? GET IN THE HOUSE BEFORE IT SUCKS YOU UP!!!"
Super calming influence for a nine-year old.
In my college years, I always had roommates to help me weather the storm. They were always very calm people, much like Hubs, who sort of took me and my ever-present paranoia under their wing and dealt with my crazy death irrationalites every April-June.
And now, Hubs is always there for me, reasuuring me when bad weather strikes. And yet here I am, alone. With a giant tornado possibly looming over me. And I'm doing okay. There are no tears (that can be proven), almost no irrational thoughts, and I'm all by myself.
I really have grown up.
Fifteen minutes later the storm officially passes, and we all go back up to the restaurant for lunch. I feel as if I should receive some sort of a medal or at least a pat on the back, but no one produces one. I guess I'll just have to settle for my own personal pride.
And besies, no one has to know I pottied in my pants a little.