Sensing the Storm
Tornado warnings are not an anomaly during Alberta summers. We have had quite a few over the last couple of years. Each warning or watch dangerously lowering our sense of unease and panic when it ends in nothing more than an under-qualified thunderstorm.
We had another such watch about a month ago. I was sitting at my desk, working away, when I decided to check the weather. The website had a red banner in place of blue and informed me that a tornado watch was in effect in my area. I threw a glance out of the front window and saw nothing more ominous than a few dark clouds scattered through dreary sky. Since every watch or warning we have experience has ended with sighs of relief, I thought nothing of the watch, although I did send a quick message to Manbeast letting him know that he should keep an eye out.
The animals were lounging around in the house as they are wont to do on rainy days. Not a creature was stirring. The overcast sky was a welcome sight after stifling heat in the previous days. It started to get darker, enough that I had to turn on a light to see without having to squint at my keyboard. I checked the weather website again. It had changed to a warning. In case you are unaware (as I was), a warning is a step up from a watch. A watch means possible, a warning means likely. I felt a small bubble of fear somewhere below my rib cage. Small, but there all the same.
I continued to work, as I had a deadline to meet, when I noticed that the animals were no longer decorating my floor like voluptuous area rugs. Toady was sitting up and panting hard. I thought maybe he had to pee, so I took them out. He wouldn’t leave the porch. That little bubble of fear grew a little right then, from the size of a pea to that of a golf ball. Still small, but with a little more edge.
We came in and turned on the weather network. It told me to “Seek Cover Immediately”. I don’t really have anywhere to take cover. My home is one level, no basement. Manbeast takes the car to work. I sent another message to Manbeast, and went down the hall to look out of the back window. I parted the dark curtains in my bedroom and froze. Behind my house was a gigantic mass of churning purple and green clouds. The smell in the air was fresh and wet, with a hint of something deeper. Something that awakens your sleeping instincts. It was so thick that I felt like I was sucking up heavy cream through my nose. The animals were glued to my legs. Panting and pawing at me. Odin (the cat) was nowhere to be found. The ball of fear turned into a grapefruit, and I felt as if my blood was shaking in my veins. I have never witnessed such a phenomenally frightening act of nature in all my life. It was beautiful and also overwhelmingly terrifying.
My phone dinged: a message from Manbeast saying that he was on the way home. I breathed a tiny sigh of relief before deciding that I needed to take precautions, even if nothing happened. Better to look a fool than be swept away by a tornado.
I did a quick assessment of the house and tried to figure out what room would provide the safest cover. I decided the bathroom was the best bet. No windows, plumbing that goes into the ground, and no unattached furniture to get squashed beneath. I briefly wondered how I would get all three pets into the bathroom, and even worse, into the dreaded bathtub.
I started towards the bathroom, and here’s where I was amazed. The dogs followed behind eagerly, tails down, necks against my knees. I didn’t want to scare them by throwing them in the tub, so I tried what I was sure would fail: I pointed to the tub. First, Mylo dutifully climbed in and sat down. Panting a little, but still smiling as always. Toady looked at me with his so-called “people eyes” and then proceeded to climb in the tub beside his brother. I almost fainted with surprise. He has never, not once in his entire life, willingly put himself in the tub. I closed the door and went to retrieve the cat, who was hiding with pupils the size of loonies under the couch. He was not pleased. I extracted him from under the sofa, and brought him (clawing and thrashing) into the bathroom.
I sat down and waited for the roof to be ripped out from overhead. Waiting to be sucked up into the sky and tossed aside like a ragdoll. I’m not a dramatic person, but fear (and not being able to see the supposed impending doom) plays with your mind. I gripped my phone to my chest and watched as Odin tried to escape the bathroom.
We have a tin roof and the rain was pounding down, echoing around the tiny room. Then the hail started. It sounded as if the house were being pounded with a thousand hammers. After what seemed like hours (and what was actually a matter of minutes), I heard a faint sound. I thought it was a door closing, but I didn’t want to go check. The dogs hopped out of the tub and scratched at the door, fear wiped from their faces. The door opened, Manbeast behind it, and he chuckled a bit at what he saw.
We went out of the bathroom and I looked outside. The storm had moved on, the warning reduced to a watch once again, and the tumultuous mass outside of my bedroom blown away. The bubble of fear shrunk and dissipated, and I even laughed a bit at myself.
The one remarkable thing about this experience (other than that giant monster of a cloud) was that in a crisis situation, my dogs behavior was impeccable. They were obedient, calm, and quiet. Not quite what I expected, but as I know, dogs will surprise you every single time.