It's a common question out here on the plains after a storm. Sometimes there's rotation, but not a funnel cloud at which you can point your finger. There's always damage. My question is, was it straight line winds or tornadic winds that caused my Carpathian Walnut to attack my neighbor's house?
It started around 11:30 pm. I actually woke up to the thunderstorm. Usually, I am woken up by my yellow lab, who no matter what M and I do, is terrified of thunder. Without fail, he will wake one of us by the old wet-panting-dog-nose-in-the-ear trick. But, storms don't wake me. I slept through a tornado in a tent out in Garden City once.
So, having that fact established, to find myself waking up to a storm, it had to be an impressively powerful storm. I rolled over, and tried to determine if the pounding was stinging rain or hail.
M appeared in the bedroom door. "There's a tornado warning."
"What? In town?"
So, I figured that was at least worth tuning in to the local news. When I got to the family room, the weather map on the TV glowed red and purple as the weatherman fussed about the severity of the storm.
When you need crucial information, Murphy's Law will apply and the electricity will fail. The more you need that info, the more spectacular the power outage. In this case, the transformer a block away exploded and set the power pole on fire in the midst of an inch per hour rainfall.
Great. Now, we were aware of several "areas of strong rotation" and we didn't know where those were. For those of you who don't live in tornado alley, that's the politically correct way to saying, "Yep. Radar shows it's definitely spinning, but we have no idea if there's a funnel on the ground or not. 'Cause it's dark and it's raining."
I flipped on our little NOAA weather radio. All it says, of course, is that there is a severe storm and a tornado warning, oh, and floods too. It doesn't say for example, that the areas of rotation are in Highland Park, Washburn area, downtown, or Tecumseh. So, I don't know if it's safe to go back to bed or not.
Ah, well. I looked down at two dogs with impossibly sad brown eyes and tails wagging nervously. "Suppose we should play it safe."
If you don't have a basement, like we don't, there are still a couple of options.
1. Our neighbor across the street has a proper tornado shelter in his backyard and we have permission to use it. This is useful before the storm grows too dangerous to cross the street. Especially with two big dogs to drag along; one of whom is already terrified, and they're both howling at the warning sirens.
2. Hide in your bathtub and pull a mattress over your heads.
We half did that. Our bathroom has no windows (good thing in storms), but it's also a 4x4 foot box (excluding the built-in-the-wall bathtub). There's no way a queen mattress is going to fit in there. The mattress is literally larger than the room.
So, I'm sitting in the bathtub with a labrador retriever who hates baths. M and the other lab sat outside the tub. I really don't get labs. Show them a creek or a mud puddle and they'll splash all day long. Show them a hose or a bathtub and they'll bark and buck like they're going to melt on contact.
The little weather radio squawked away like a parrot. Yes, a parrot because it just repeats the same information over and over without any detail. In a couple of minutes, the tornado warning expired.
I poked my head out of the front door and looked around. "Huh. Didn't hear that happen."
The winds had wrenched one of the two trunks of our Carpathian Walnut tree. A three foot bright scar clashed with the darkness around it. The trunk and tree top were resting at an awkward angle against our next door neighbors' house.
Our neighbors were cool with the damage, and it wasn't leaking or anything. They hadn't heard it either.
However, apparent minimal damage aside, they still had half of a tree on their house.
What a fine time for us to find out that our chainsaw is busted.
I grabbed the little handsaw from the wall and set to work at the break in the tree. Part of the trunk was still attached to the rest of the tree. At least nature had split the work with me too. The trunk was already broken in half.
M put his hands on his hips as he surveyed the work before us. "Deb, that's not going to work."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, how did people do it for millennia before chainsaws?."
Ooh. He did have a point. The first tool known to humankind was a stone ax. And, I really don't get to use my flintknapping technique too often these days anyway. Fact: obsidian is sharper than steel surgical tools and leaves less of a scar. Also fact: it dulls very quickly, and breaks easily when it's dulled.
Then again, I did already have a metal saw in my hand. Metal did replace stone as a medium for tools for a reason.
I set to work. I sawed and sawed, and kept sawing. Even I thought it was mind-numbing.
Meanwhile, M trimmed away on the smaller branches with the giant clippers. He cleared out most of the top of the tree while I kept sawing away at the trunk.
Over a hour and one ice-packed wrist later, he admitted that I was right.
Thankfully, the broken tree had only managed to knock off some of their guttering and the angle of the window a/c unit. Plus, we have firewood for next winter.
We came out of this storm very fortunately again. Many others in this town weren't so lucky with their houses. However, everyone is fortunate that it was only property damage this time.