Monday, June 23, 2008

Missouri Weather

Someone, I believe it was a former schoolmate of Mom's who stumbled upon a family picnic, said that he loved everything about Missouri--except for the humidity and the chiggars. He pronounced this statement a mere hour before a giant cloud formed in the distance, looking like it was heading straight for us. We all nervously watched the cloud as it moved closer and closer. Finally someone suggested that we move the food indoors and check the radio and television for weather information, specifially Tornado Warnings/Watches. We were all downnaholler (In a dip between two hills for those of you who don't speak Ozark), miles from anything, with only two trailers, several trucks, and a Prius for potential shelter. Thus, a Tornado was not on the list of things we wanted to encounter at that particular moment.

The storm clouds never did hit us, staying just South of us as they moved toward the East. We did hear on the radio, though, that Ozark, Missouri, was experiencing golf ball sized hail. Ozark happened to be where my grandparents' house was, so when my grandparents, my mom, and I packed up to leave the family picnic, we drove back to Ozark not knowing what to expect.

Thankfully, there wasn't too much damage. A lot of leaves gone from trees, of course, and some branches down. But the house was fine and both of my grandparents' cars were in the garage. We did get a call later from Gene, a friend of the family who also lives in Ozark. Turns out the hail had completely distroyed his garden and he would have to start over.

And welcome to Missouri. But that wasn't our first weather experience this trip. The day after we arrived, fresh from Illinois and all the trauma there, I woke up early to drive down to the park and go for a run. Even though it was humid, the sky was light, and I made a few laps around the park, all the while blaming my wheezing on the altitude (I figure I live at sea level, so when I run at any altitude above, say, 10 feet, I can blame shoddy performance on the altitude. It's a convenient excuse and one that I invoke frequently.) After my run, though, as I was driving back to my grandparents' house, the sky darkened almost instantly. Some of the fastest moving clouds I had ever seen were moving across the sky. In the house, my grandfather and mother were nervously checking the television and the NOAA transmitter that my mother had recently bought for my grandparents. This was, my grandparents and my mother announced, tornado weather.

Tornados concern me. Well, it might be a slightly stronger emotion than that. Let's just say that my feeling for tornados is somewhere between "they concern me" and "they scare the sh*t right out of me." And tornados are a reality of life in the midwest. Just this year, my cousin's house was destroyed by a tornado. And yes, he was in it when it happened. When I was younger, I was staying with some other cousins. We were home alone, drinking a concoction of Tang and Marshmallows, when the sky turned green. My cousins (one from Missouri, the other from Oklahoma) took it in stride. I tried to act cool, but in my mind I saw the rescue team finding my broken, limp body under a pile of rubble. We didn't get hit, but I carry a mental image of that sky in my mind, and I pull it out occasionally to compare it with any sky that had darkened just a bit too much, too quickly.

Fortunately, my grandparents, my mom, and I were not struck by a tornado (I might have been a bit more nervous than usual, given the trip so far). Later that day, Mom, my grandfather, and I decided to go into town, to the Best Buy, to buy a new computer for my grandfather. It was raining outside, and my grandfather, who was driving, let my mom and me off at the store's door. Once we were all in the store, my grandfather and mother left to go look at computers while I looked at MP3 players. I had perused all the players and was on my way to meet up with my family when the lights went out. Outside it was dark and pouring. Like, Noah's flood pouring. Like, end of the world pouring. The lights did eventually go back on, but not until after several minutes--and after I insisted that we call my grandmother, to make sure she was all right.

We made it back okay (after taking my grandfather purse shopping for my grandmother. But that's another story for another day). But the entire time my Mom and I were in the Ozarks, I swear it rained every other day. Or maybe every day. Or maybe every third day.


At 4:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh...kudos for sharing your potentially-paranoid-level fears about tornados and such.
Yet another wonderful piece.


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