In 1991, I was living not too far from Andover when an F5 tornado devastated the town. We could see the main tornado of the cell, which got to be around 600 yards wide. My house and the house right next to mine were largely undamaged; the house right next to that, however, was gone entirely, razed to its foundations. The only thing that was left was the dining room table, place settings still intact, with a vase sitting in the middle of the table holding roses, all their petals still on them. It’s something I would have struggled to believe if I hadn’t seen it firsthand.
I’ve lived in Kansas all my life, and when I lived outside El Dorado, which I did for much of my childhood. tornadoes were a regular occurrence. Since moving to Kansas City, I haven’t encountered as many, but I am still somewhat accustomed to them. Last night’s was a unique experience, nevertheless.
Last night, I left the house and headed north toward the Screenland Armour theatre for a special heavy metal installment of Horror Roulette, a monthly event where a single horror movie is picked at random from a themed list. This one was co-hosted by Blair, its usual MC, and Eli, who hosts Analog Sunday, which has rapidly become one of my favorite monthly activities.
I was just crossing the river when the radio alerted me to the presence of a tornado on the ground near Lawrence, KS. I don’t expect readers to necessarily know where any of these places are, but Lawrence is maybe a half-hour drive from my house, and several of my friends live there. The tornado was headed my way.
As the night wore on, it skirted the edges of Lawrence, devastated Linwood, and hit several other small towns, making a beeline for the Kansas City metro. At present, I still haven’t heard a definitive estimate as to the scope of the tornado, but I’m hearing EF4.
At first, I was concerned for Grace and the cats, who were still at home, but once it became apparent that the tornado was going north of them, concern shifted to, well, me.
Fortunately, I was at the theatre by then, and I figured a brick building with no windows, surrounded by other people, was about the safest place I could conveniently think of. When it became clear that the storm was headed our way, the staff got all of us down into the basement for an impromptu tornado party.
None of it lasted very long, and thankfully the tornado blew itself out before it crashed into the KC metro. After a little time in the basement, we all headed back upstairs, and those of us who were there for Horror Roulette spun the wheel and watched Black Roses. It certainly made for a memorable evening.
Today, Grace was deployed by the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), of which she is a member, to help with cleanup, so she’s doing that while I’m here, working.
I haven’t heard much about the scope of the damages, and haven’t seen any damage at all firsthand, but I’m grateful that myself and everyone I know seems to be okay. Living in tornado alley all of my life may have made me used to them, but it hasn’t done anything to dull my awareness of how fortunate I am each time I dodge that big, windy bullet. If anything, I think it’s keener than it might otherwise have been.