Wow. That's my word for what happened here in Dexter on Thursday. First, terrifying that I saw a tornado in our backyard, and secondly, a miracle that everybody is okay. Every time I read a new article where it states that there were "no deaths, not even injuries," I tear up. And then, seeing and hearing how this community is coming together to be there for our neighbors, makes me feel so blessed to be here.
I am going to share my story of what happened Thursday. I'm writing it mostly because I need this as a way to get my feelings out there and would also like something for my girls to be able to go back through and read about as they grow up. I know I am interested in hearing other people's stories, so maybe you are interested as well....
Thursday, March 15, 2012…Even with the unusual warmth we've been having, just standing in the parking lot at 10:30am waiting to start a stroller run with a friend, I was thinking how especially hot is was already so early in the morning, but never expected what was to come. The run was good. At 12:30, I picked up the 3 year-old from grandma's house just down the street in Dexter, off of Dexter Pinckney Road. We came home for our usual lunch and nap. At 5pm, the 3 year-old looked a little scared when we heard some loud thunder, so I told her to come check the weather report with me on the computer and then she can play a game on it while I call Daddy. She asked me what all the different colors meant on the weather map and I explained that green is rain, blue is snow, and purple is mixed. I told her that red is bad, but there was only a tiny spot of it by us, most of it was north. We had nothing to worry about. Thunderstorms can be fun.
I called Daddy and told him that we were looking forward to finally getting to watch him play volleyball in Ann Arbor at 7pm. We just needed to eat dinner and would then be on our way. I told him there was a thunderstorm coming and that I was looking for a rainbow to show the kids since the west half of the sky was very dark and the east still appeared quite sunny. My mom had rung in on the phone during that conversation, so I called her back. She said, "There's a tornado in Pinckney, due to hit Hudson Mills at 5:20pm."
Yikes! I called my husband back and he said, it's "probably just funnel clouds, not a tornado that's touched the ground," but to stay in touch with him. Ok, a little worse than I first thought, but let's go down to the basement and run through the drill.
I left the girls in the basement playroom while I ran upstairs and grabbed our king comforter blanket. I remembered watching one of the stories on tv just a few weeks earlier where a mom had to have her legs removed after being in a tornado, but thanks to her wrapping the children in a blanket and laying on top of them, they came out without a scratch.
So, we were playing happily under the blanket in the basement when the 3 year-old asked me where the tornado is going to take us. (She is asking this because she has become very obsessed with “The Wizard of Oz” over the winter. She’s even taken an interest in studying about tornados and earthquakes, so my husband I have tried to use this interest to teach her about emergencies, as well as the difference between fiction and real-life.) At 5:25pm, I texted my husband and said that the storm should be past by now and asked if we are in the clear. He and my mom both thought we were good, so I told the girls that I was going to run upstairs real fast and grab my phone charger. However, I decided I would take a quick peek outside our basement window before heading up, just to double check that there was nothing dangerous near us. What a once-if ever-in lifetime sight I saw…
“Oh my gosh! There’s a real tornado in our backyard!” That’s exactly what I said to myself. I waited maybe two seconds, just staring at it, confirming what my eyes were seeing, and thinking it was going to come right through the fields in our backyard. There is no way it can miss us, I thought. I turned to the kiddos, who had now emerged from the playroom and standing next to each other, waiting to see what I would tell them to do next. With my voice and whole body shaking, I told them “there’s a real tornado” and to run to the shower in the bathroom (next to the playroom in the basement). I realized we weren’t all going to fit, so I directed them to lay on the blanket by the sink. I wrapped them up, texted my husband and mom about what I saw, and then thought that the tornado should be on top of us any second now.
The 3 year-old curled up and stayed quiet. I kept telling her that she is doing perfect, so of course, then the 1 year-old did exactly what Big Sis was doing and curled up herself, saying “Perfect, Perfect.” That only lasted a few minutes though before she decided she wanted to “Get out and play.” While I was texting, the 3 year-old kept saying “Mommy, hold me.” That’s when I put the phone down, made sure I had an arm around both girls, and sang “Old McDonald.” That helped me feel better, too.
A little later, the power went out. We stayed awhile longer, but unable to communicate with anyone now and sure that the tornado part was over, we emerged to happily find our neighbors shining flashlights outside their basement window. We shined back. The 3 year-old cried just for a second as I walked towards the window, and of course, no matter how brave I tell her she was, the five seconds of crying is what she was telling people about afterwards, “…but I cried a little.”
The girls and I decided that we needed to venture upstairs to grab a snack, but not knowing what we would find. When I saw the living room, my very first thought was, “The tornado went through here!” Then, I remembered that’s what our living room always looks like during the day! J And then a complete shock to me, absolutely nothing whatsoever was out of place outside. We did have large hail all over the yard, but surprisingly there was no sign of wind.
I made a few more phone calls to my brother, mom, and husband – everyone was alive and unharmed. However, I wasn’t able to relax yet. My husband was now in the car, driving through hail, trying to get home. He said the tornado was headed into Ann Arbor and his work didn’t have any safe places to take cover, so he was heading south into Saline, well out of his way, to stay below and ahead of the tornado. A half hour later, I became even more worried because he should’ve been home by then. Running on emergency phone battery, I got a hold of him again, and this time he was coming from the west, Chelsea, because roads were blocked everywhere in Dexter.
As soon as he arrived home, he gave hugs, and immediately started setting up the generator. I took the kids outside to look around, when just then Mom pulled up in the driveway in frantic mode. The police wouldn’t let her get back to her home in Dexter, her phone wasn’t working, and Dad was on his way to their house (not knowing he wouldn’t be able to get there) after having been locked in at the mall for an hour and in need of medicine that Mom had ventured out during the storm to get him because he was having a hives reaction.
I took the girls to the neighbors to check in with them and Mom headed back out, but not before telling me that she had seen houses that were demolished and insulation in trees. So sad.
Well, that was pretty much it.
Mom and Dad were able to meetup and have a good meal at Big Boy in Chelsea and then return home by showing police their ID. The rest of the night was normal, at least for the girls, with dinner, bath, storytime and bed. I was wishing for some tv or internet to read about what just happened, see how people were doing, and see what needs to be done. Right before bed though, I did get enough of a signal on my phone to read one line from the headline of an article saying, “No deaths, not even injuries.” I cried, but was at least able to sleep peacefully knowing that miraculous piece of information.
As frightening as seeing the tornado in our backyard was, having two little girls to keep me distracted and even laugh through it, along with having communication to tell my husband I love him, made it all not so bad. I’ve been more scared giving speeches.
I have my Mom to thank for the phone call that directed the girls and I down to the basement. I apologize to her for not paying any attention to the fact that the tornado could’ve got her, too, as I was just concentrating on the girls and I. Actually, it was even closer to her than to us. Looking at the path that the tornado took, it started just one minute west of our house, went south down her road, and turned east over the golf course, right before hitting her subdivision.
While driving around this weekend, as sad of a sight it was, at the same, it was a very uplifting sight. It made me very proud to be a part of the Dexter Community. The clean up efforts and kindness continue to joyously overwhelm us. Thank you to all of the thoughtful people who checked in with us during and after the storm to see if we were ok.
And lastly, as my daughter and I drove to church on Sunday morning, her and I were reminded of God’s promise to always take care of us as we witnessed a beautiful rainbow arching over Dexter.