April 10, 2015 an EF4 tornado hit Fairdale, Illinois which is about 20-30 min away from where Aaron and I grew up in Rockford, Illinois. No tornado should ever be taken lightly, and 2 people lost their lives during this particular storm.
When the storm was developing (fast) I was on the phone catching up with an old college teammate of mine from Africa- we’ll call her Tiffany* for this story. Now, Tiffany* is a professional college tennis coach for a university in the Northern Illinois area. She has lived in Illinois for over a year now, but has never experienced a tornado. While on the phone with her, I heard Aaron absolutely freaking out in the living room, so I peaked out of the bedroom to take a look at what all the excitement was about. He had our main TV on, all 3 of our laptops on (featuring 3 different forecasting websites), and had a 4th site going in our computer room on our desktop computer. I was completely clueless as to what was developing, I just saw my husband in ‘go mode’ unable to utter a complete sentence to me when I asked him ‘what was going on?’
Well, it’s not hard to put the pieces together when you have 4 computers and a television on to see that a huge tornado was forming 20 minutes from home and 10 minutes from where Tiffany* was. When I was able to capture Aaron’s attention for about 15 seconds to tell him that Tiffany* was in the area and ask if she should take cover, he screamed in horrified excitement that she needed to get underground immediately. The following conversation occurred:
Me: “Tiffany* turn on your television and watch the tornado that is 10 minutes away from you.”
Tiffany*: “Oh what’s happening? Is it going to rain here?”
Me: “No Tiffany*, there is a tornado headed your way.”
Tiffany*: “Oh, what are my local channels here to look at?”
Me: “Are you serious? I have no idea, I’m in Oklahoma, try Channels 3,4,5,6,etc…”
Tiffany*: “I can’t find them!”
Me: “OMG, ok, well try to pull it up on your laptop, you need to be watching what is going on, the tornado could turn and head your way!”
Tiffany*: “Well what do I do when the tornado comes? Oh! I just got a text from someone!” (she then giggles at the text)
Me: “Tiffany*! Hello!? You get into your basement if you have one, or you go into the bathroom.”
Tiffany*: “How about I head into the garage, I don’t have a basement.”
Me: “No, do not go into the garage. That is a very bad idea, if you don’t have a basement then you need to get your mattress and go into your inner most bathroom and put it over you in the tub.”
**About this time, I realized she was completely oblivious to the situation, and she had no idea how to take safety for a tornado even though she and I went to school in Ohio, and she’s been in the states for 10 years now.
I screamed at Aaron to tell me which way the tornado was headed and if Tiffany* needed to find shelter or not. My answer was that the tornado had turned and was no longer going towards my friend. I told Tiffany* not to worry about taking shelter, but encouraged her to have a plan for next time as this was a total cluster preparing her for an EF4 that was 10 minutes away from her. Once the tornado hit, moved on, and Aaron and I saw the destruction of it all, it hit home, again, how powerful these storms can be. While my friend Tiffany* was oblivious to the entire situation and the conversation was funny, I still don’t know if she understands how close she was to it and hope to God she knows what to do if one ever hits closer to her. If this story has one lesson in it, it is to invest in a weather radio & hook it up in your home, so that if you are like Tiffany* and have no idea what your local television stations are, and cant figure out how to pull it up on your computer, you’ll at least be prepared with the radio.
In the meantime I think my IQ dropped about 10 points after that phone call. Tiffany* if you are reading this, know I love you and am not picking on you (ok, maybe I am a little bit), but living in the Midwest comes with risks and everyone needs to be ‘weather aware’ and know what steps to take to be safe and take shelter when needed 😉
To read more on the Fairdale, IL storm and what lessons need to be learned, please visit Aaron’s mentor Eric Sorenson’s blog: http://wqad.com/2015/04/20/what-we-need-to-learn-from-the-deadly-tornadoes-this-month/