Now, I will agree with you, that nobody likes to jump out of bed at midnight, after you just got to sleep, because the wind is howling like a bunch of dervishes, and the tornado sirens are blaring. Worse yet, you have to go into the rooms of those jumping monkeys of yours, who are finally still in their beds, and rouse them out of sandman land, terminating peace and quiet.
Although there are many things about having my family room in the basement that I do not like; there is much to be said for having two nice full-length sofas to curl up on while you watch the storm pass on the TV’s radar. I know you’re not supposed to be watching TV during a storm; but my husband can’t resist such a temptation. While the radar storm graphics, with bright orange and red hot spots are very exciting, nothing can compare to watching a TV meteorologist chatting away in breathless tones with his other meteorology friends, as they discuss, what could be the storm of the century.
Why is it, I wonder, at 12:14 a.m., do the meteorologist have to run from their homes, wearing suits and ties, to cover the storm? The person who is “on-duty” has got it all under control anyway. It’s not like a baby’s coming, and we need to doctor here so we can push. Alas, I realize, this is what they’ve been trained for. This is their big moment; and the drama of the night is nothing short of that Hollywood movie, about the Tornado Chasers. Even though there is really nothing the weathermen can do to stop the storm.
Then it occurs to me that the TV weathermen, who are issuing out cautions about going to the northeast corner of the basement, interior closet or bathroom if you don’t have a basement; never once mention the safety precaution about not turning your TV on. They did mention the phone once. That’s bad; you can die if lighting strikes the phone, they said.
Still, they use the phone anyway, because they’ve got men and women out on the scene to describe what they’re seeing. “Rain coming down in sheets,” or “Lightning light up the entire sky like it was daylight,” and “Flooding.”
It was surreal to watch that red dot of the storm move right on top of the map where we live. I pointed this out to my 12-year-old, who responds with, “But I don’t hear anything.” That’s what you need to be worried about, as I explain the meaning of the phrase; the calm before the storm.
I’m tired, and with two little boys wrapped tight around me like a pretzel, pillows propped under us and blankets, I decide to stop answering my 12-year-old’s questions about the storm and get some sleep. However, this is difficult to do. The weathermen are just too excited about this storm to ignore. I try, and I end up hearing snippets:
“You looked scared when you came into the studio.”
“I was; I’ve never seen a wall cloud that big before…”
“Just kicked up out of nowhere, with incredible force.”
“Seeing some flooding.”
“You looked so frightened.”
We cannot go back upstairs to sleep. There are more storms coming behind this one; and this one is unpredictable. It has “hooks” the meteorologists say; those can swirl into dangerous tornadoes. I try to drift off to sleep, safe in the basement, but then I think about people I know living in each suburb they mention; are they OK? Are they watching this same blabbering I’m watching? What about the elderly people next door; I know they can’t make it down stairs. What about any elderly woman living by herself who can’t make it down the stairs by herself; and what if water is running into her basement? I think about the people who don’t have finished basements, with babies and toddlers, trying to stay comfortable. I think of relatives in towns and counties farther out; where the storm has already passed through, or where the storm is headed. Are they all OK? Are they worried about us?
The kicker of the whole night is when the TV weathermen start reading viewer emails. “George here says he couldn’t even see anything in his back yard.” “Melissa wrote in and said the lightning lit up the whole sky.” They encourage us to hurry up and send our photos of the storm so they can show them on the airwaves; the storm coverage is not complete without the vision of the readers. I’m flattered they’ve asked for my contribution; but at a time like this, I’d much rather rely on the experts to tell me if that hook that’s forming at the bottom of the storm cloud is something I need to be concerned about. Still, I know this is just another ploy to keep the ratings up. If my Aunt Betty calls me to tell me she sent a picture to the TV station; I’ll stay and wait for them to show Aunt Betty’s picture.
Who is on their laptops at a time like this? More accurately, they’re on the laptop AND the TV. And who has their Nikon out, uploading photos, and emailing them?
They’re missing the whole beauty of the storm. The gathering together of the people that are closest to you to provide comfort, security, and the necessary task of erasing fears. Are they quietly sending a prayer to their friends and family for their safety? Have they paid attention to that yearning to let family and friends know that they’re OK? In the morning, my Mom used to always call, what time did the storm hit, how much I did or didn’t sleep, and how many limbs were down. This silent caring and pondering about our love for others is that elusive experience we all want at Christmas; the part that always comes up missing, because we get too caught up in the festivities; the presents and the food. And here it is; the magic of Christmas comes sneaking in like a thief in the night, in the middle of summer; and we hardly notice it’s here.
There is a quietness in the center of every storm; a calm that envelops you to remind you of the very things that matter most in your heart. This is the silver lining in the midnight rain clouds.
I barely got back to sleep the rest of the night. The lightning was too intense, and the accompanying “raining in sheets” tormented my mind with images of flooding, the sump pump running all night. I’ve seen more darkness in the middle of a firework show. Still, it was a night I won’t soon forget. Neither will the weathermen, I’m sure.
We’re back from the lake to take care of some necessary doctor’s appointments.