I said I wanted to write about what happened. So here's the first installment. Keep in mind that my memory never has been fantastic, and fear & stress don't really help with that. There are certainly going to be gaps in the story, and things that others may remember differently. Things I'm going to edit out because they are other people's stories and they might not want it out there on the web. But this was April 27th and after for me...
April 27th is Derek's birthday. I was particularly excited about this one because I bought him a pair of ice crampons I knew he really wanted. This April 27th was a Wednesday, so I had a full day of work followed by class that night. Derek was trying to wrap up his semester of school and had a meeting for work that night. Not the best birthday for my love, but that's life. The day progressed slowly, the threat of the weather lingering on. I worked through my lunch in hopes of leaving early so I could avoid being trapped at the library should the tornado sirens sound.
I was powering down my computer when the sirens went off. So close to escaping for the day, but no luck. I helped get patrons and chairs into the inner hallway of the basement in the Medical Center and hoped that maybe at least class would get cancelled. I played on the library iPad while Nelle pulled up the weather on her computer. This was just one occurrence in a long line of tornado warnings, the previous of which led to nothing - making me feel like today was no different. I was not worried. I just wanted to go home.
The tornado warning was extended into the night and classes canceled. An announcement was made that individuals who needed to leave to be with their families could, but they were advised against it. I called Derek to have him pick me up. No way was I hanging out at the library all night. This was stupid.
Derek called me on his way over and asked me to find out about the storm system - where were the tornadoes, how fast was the weather traveling, and so on. I tried to look it up but was distracted by patrons wanting to use the library, coworkers yelling at me to get off the computer, and people generally being underfoot. He made it to the library before I could really look at the weather, so I decided to just risk it and go home. A coworker told me to be careful. I promised her I would, but really I thought everyone was overreacting.
Once home, the weather became calm. I had started making myself some food - I hadn't eaten since 11AM. Not good for me since I tend to pass out when I don't eat every few hours. Derek went to pull up the weather on the computer. He was wearing his big ice climbing boots and the crampons were out on the couch - he had been trying them on when I called. He said he left the boots on figuring they'd be the best shoes to have on during a tornado if we did have one. I set my plate aside for the moment. I never did eat anything from it.
I got a text from Nelle saying a tornado was on the ground, and we should get to cover. I went out on the porch but saw nothing. Derek got the sky cam on the computer and we saw it for a moment but couldn't quite tell where it was. I still didn't think there was a problem. Derek pretty much thought I was insane, but I grew up in Missouri - I knew about tornadoes. They are barely on the ground before they go back up again, and you wait it out for a couple of minutes in your basement. But I wasn't thinking about us living on the second floor and not having a basement...
Then Derek read the following:
AT 451 PM CDT…NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR AND STORM
SPOTTERS WERE TRACKING A LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO. THIS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR JENA…OR 15 MILES SOUTHWEST OF NORTHPORT… MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.
THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR…
BRYANT DENNY STADIUM…MCFARLAND MALL AND NORTHPORT AROUND 505 PM CDT.
It was a little upsetting since we were between those locations...
I guess that's about when we heard it coming. It was eerie sounding - not like anything I've ever heard before. But we knew what it was. I could see it on Derek's face, and feel it as the blood drained from mine. My heart dropped into my stomach and my mouth went dry. I realized I'd never heard that sound when I was a kid in Missouri. My ears started popping. The power died. I dashed into the bedroom and grabbed a blanket to cover us. I was debating grabbing the mattress itself, and Derek was debating grabbing our climbing helmets. But it was too late. We could feel the air being sucked out as the pressure dropped - like diving as deep into water as you can until your head feels like it will explode and then being pulled deeper. The noise became as loud as a jet engine when it's about to take off. I grabbed a flashlight from the floor. Then we got into the darkened bathroom, shut the door, and sat down.