For those who don’t live in tornado ally, or for those fortunate to have a basement, you have never had to experience the logistics of getting into a storm shelter. Having grown up in Illinois, I was fortunate enough to have a basement. I can count on one hand how many times my family and I had to go down to the basement for a tornado warning. The few times we went down to the basement (after looking outside for the tornado first) we had over 1,000 sq. ft. of space, plenty of room for my parents, brother, dog and me to have personal space so we didn’t totally annoy each other for the 15-minutes we were down there.
In Oklahoma only 1% of the population has a basement. That’s right only 1%, that is CRAZY when you think about the number of tornadoes the state sees on an annual basis, why is that? Geologists say that basement walls will crack due to the red clay that absorbs moisture and drys out in the heat which creates a contraction and expansion of the concrete. That in addition to high water tables is a recipe for disaster, and your pocket-book, so Oklahoman’s just don’t bother with it. Instead, us Okies resort to life-saving storm shelters.
There are 3 types of storm shelters:
- Underground Shelters
- Concrete Shelters
- Safe Rooms
All 3 shelters have been proven to save people’s lives in an EF5 tornado and when it comes to surviving a natural disaster, you will get into one of those 3 options with no hesitancy. They aren’t cheap, they all start off at a few thousand dollars each, so while I’d love for every resident in Oklahoma to have one (and I think they should be mandatory in each structure built here), not everyone can afford them. For those who do not have a shelter, make sure you are educated on how to protect yourself at home, the office or at a shopping center.
What’s great about being an Okie, is that everyone comes together during severe weather. Tornadoes, hail, earthquakes are all a lifestyle. For those who don’t have a shelter, they know they are welcome to their neighbor’s home if s*it gets real, no questions asked. Adults, kids, pets…all of them will take shelter together in whatever storm shelter is available.
Personally speaking, I have an underground shelter in my garage. To give you a visual it looks like an oil lube pit, torture chamber, bomb shelter, a 4’7″ dark abyss and a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. But remember, they are made for survival, not comfort. You won’t find anyone hanging out in a storm shelter for fun (unless changing their car oil, which we’ve done, don’t judge, it’s practical).
Now here is where being the wife of a meteorologist get’s exciting. My
weatherman meteorologist husband will ALWAYS be working during a severe weather day, leaving me home alone with a baby and two 70-lb dogs who are absolutely petrified of getting into said abyss.
Logistically speaking, getting two huge, stubborn dogs into a dark abyss while having a toddler either walking, crying, screaming, running, back-bending, laying down, or anything else a toddler can think to do at the worst possible time, will be impossible. One solution Aaron and I came up with is putting the Pet Loader into the shelter which will hopefully give the dogs more stair-width for me to shove, kick, hurl, throw, and/or wrestle them down into by myself.
We have done plenty of practice-runs with the dogs to prepare us for the inevitable, and while our fat lab has caught onto using the Pet Loader and trusting that we have a reason and purpose for her to be down in the dark abyss, our sensitive pit-boxer mix is just beside herself each time. She tucks her tail and retreats to the furthest corner of the garage and begins shaking like we are going to torture her. *she reminds me of the dog in Hyperbole and a Half, if you haven’t read this blog and have ever owned a dog, it’s amazing and you will crack up*
So, when you see a tornado warning in Oklahoma City, think of me, home…alone, with a toddler acting out in some way or another, and two 70-lb dogs (one is fat, one is shaking) trying to get into our underground storm shelter that is 4’7″ high, dark and loud. I will be that person that waits til the last-minute to get into the shelter because it will be traumatizing for all of us (also part of my diabolical plan to drive my husband crazy), but you bet your ass I’ll have each of them down there safe.There may be a few broken bones with the shoving and wrestling of the dogs, but I’d rather have a dog w a broken leg than no dog at all.
Hopefully I will never need to figure out the logistics of getting into a storm shelter, but if I do, there is a plan.
Well, it finally happened. I finally saw my first tornado on May 23, 2016 in Woodward, Oklahoma. I have been waiting for my husband to catch me one for five years. We have gone chasing a handful of times on very promising days and at the most saw hail. I thought I was bad luck! Whenever I’d go out on a chase, the day would fizzle. The days I would stay back, he’d see amazing tornadoes.
I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to chasing, and I have a list of ‘tornado-must-haves’ for the tornado I want to see. You see, I absolutely hate driving. I hate being in the car for extended periods of time, in the middle of no where, with no one around; quite simply it makes me very anxious. I am not one of those people that loves the open road and having no one around. I mean, what if a tire blew or I choke on food? So days I actually go chasing, I have to be in the right state-of-mind. Aaron and I have his favorite weather app (Radar Scope) running the entire time that shows other chasers in the area and depicts them as little dots on the map. Call me crazy, but I get comfort in seeing those little dots around us when we’re in butt-f*ck Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, etc…
My ‘must-have’ list for a tornado consists of the following:
1. The tornado must be within a few hours of my starting point so I don’t have to be in the car for 14+ hours.
2. The tornado can only hit fields, it can’t hit a populated area.
3. References to the movie Twister must happen as often as possible.
4. The tornado must be obvious. It must have that iconic wedge look to it.
5. It must be accessible to see and chase on a paved road. I don’t want to be stuck in mud in the middle of no where (what if the dots can’t find us?)
6. A ‘selfie’ opportunity is a must.
Our day started off…hesitant. Aaron wasn’t sure if the storm would develop or not. It was a promising day, all the ingredients for a tornado were there, but it wasn’t certain. After a few hours of careful forecasting and analysis on his part, we decided to get on the road and chase the storm 2 hours to our West. I love my husband,I support him, I know he knows what he’s doing, but given my track record, I was preparing for a bust. In my mind, this was a fun little road trip with my hubby to western Oklahoma, so, I started the road trip playlist and began taking photos for my blog of me being bored waiting for a tornado that was never going to happen.
I know, I know, it was kind of mean of me, but in my defense, I hadn’t seen a tornado in 5 years. I played the part of navigator (which is comical, because I’m very bad at it) while he forecasted. He would stare out the window at the clouds and make predictions based off what the clouds were doing. He was one step away from grabbing the dirt and becoming a human barometer. He was definitely channeling his inner Bill Harding, while I was more like Melissa, drink in hand saying “Hey where’re we going?” Except looking back at it, since I was navigator I should have known…huh…now I’m thinking I didn’t really play a roll at all that day.
Aaron’s human barometer skills were on point. We had been parked in Woodward, OK for about a half hour trying to determine if anything was going to happen or if we should cut our losses and head back to OKC. He saw something in
the clouds radarscope , and decided to drive north. And wouldn’t you know it? There wasn’t a tornado…nope, not yet at least. The storm, as I learned, was cycling. Yes, I learned all about the life cycle of a tornado, what scud, downdrafts, and outflows all were.
The storm was teasing me. It looked promising, looked like the tornado was going to drop, then it would cycle out (I don’t know if that’s the right terminology, but that’s what I’m saying). We ended up waiting an hour for the storm to mature. Then it happened. Not only did the tornado finally drop, but it hit everything on my ‘must-have’ list. It was incredible. I learned that it was the ‘best’ tornado experience because it didn’t move, it stayed in one spot and it stayed there for a long time, long enough for me to take a tornadoie (that’s right, a tornado selfie).
It was glorious! I have officially crossed seeing a tornado off my bucket list because I finally saw my first tornado!
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me ‘what is the weather going to be today?’ I’d literally have tens of dollars. But, it is a reality I am faced with with every severe weather season and with any threat of moisture that comes out of the sky. I suddenly become everyone’s go-to person because I am married to the
weatherman meteorologist. It’s like they think I am privy to secret weather information; that I’ll be able to tell them the exact time, wind speed, accumulation, etc. that will hit their house that day.
April and May in Oklahoma are my least favorite months for various reasons, including:
- I don’t see my husband
- There is no such thing as a schedule (see previous blog here.)
- I suddenly need to act as media spokesman for the friends and co-workers to educate everyone on what to expect for weather events that day/week.
- My phone blows up with “Is there going to be a tornado?” “Do I need to seek shelter?”
But what you don’t know is on severe weather outbreak days my husband is doing 12-15+ hour long days, prepping, chasing, forecasting, phoning into the station, working behind the scenes literally answering all the questions viewers want to know. There is no time for him to tell the storm “hold on so I can text my wife and let her know what the weather is in her backyard.” From me to you, I might hear from him once or twice on a severe weather day simply as a status update, otherwise I have to watch the news just like everyone else.
My advice to you is, turn on the news, the
weathermen meteorologists will give you the most accurate information and will break it down by the minute and literally tell you if it’s going to hit your house or not. The behind the scenes action is incredible on severe weather days. While you see one to two weatherman meteorologists on air, there are double to triple the people behind the green screen, looking at new models coming in, getting viewer photos to share, communicating with the chasers, creating new graphics, etc. Then you have all the storm chasers out on the road following every single major storm cell to inform the viewers exactly where it is and where it is going. All 3 major stations in Oklahoma City have helicopter pilots that are on the storm to provide a birds-eye-view of what the storm is acting like. And all of that are only the storm teams! This doesn’t even go into the newsroom and all the reporters and anchors and what they are putting together to inform everyone what’s happened when a storm blows through.
I’ve asked Aaron if he could so kindly take a break to text me if a tornado is headed towards our neighborhood, or at least give me a personal shout-out on air, he said he could do that, so to any friends we have in the surrounding area, I will do my best to text you personally if there is a need to worry. But again, my advice to you is be prepared. Have your storm shelter ready, or have a safe room to go to in your home, don’t go driving around running errands if you know a storm is headed your way, have a weather radio, download your favorite local station’s weather apps, and tune in to the local channels see exactly what’s happening.
If you’re in the weather field at all, odds are you’ve watched the movie Twister. It’s a movie that’s been around for 20 years (incredible). If you are ever chasing in Oklahoma or live in Oklahoma, it’s should be mandatory for you to visit the Twister Museum in Wakita, OK where Aunt Meg lived. Below are the steps a weatherman and a Meteorologist must take when visiting the Twister Museum:
Call the Twister Museum ahead of time to make sure they are open. If they are, put on a weather related t-shirt (in this case, Aaron chose KFOR’s sister station KAUT) and head over!
Find a kick @$$ road trip partner and drink caffeinated drinks & eat sugary snacks to fuel yourself for the road trip.
Once you are fueled up on caffeine and sugar, enjoy the wind in your hair and sing 90’s songs at the top of your lungs (Backstreet’s back, alright!?).
Once you find Wakita, do not drive past it without realizing it. It is a town of 400 with a few stop signs. If you do drive past it (like we did) find the iconic water tower (take pictures with it) and turn around as the road you came in on was the main road in Wakita. Don’t worry, the speed limit is 15mph-you have time:
Flashback to Austin Powers:
The Twister Museum is the last ‘store’ on the East side of the main road, park outside and find the owner of the museum, Linda:
Have Linda take you on a tour of the museum. It’s almost mandatory to have Linda show you around. She has stories about every piece, every actor, every ‘behind the scene’ experience, it’s absolutely wonderful to hear her stories about the making of the movie Twister.
Thank Linda for a wonderful experience, donate some money to the museum, and take parting shots (make sure to wear sunglasses as the Oklahoma wind is no joke in Wakita).
On your way out of Wakita, don’t forget to find Aunt Megs house to reenact the food scene.
Haha, just kidding, they tore it down after the movie was made, but there is a nice overgrown memorial garden(?) in it’s place with a nice brick road homage to The Wizard Of Oz movie.
Not a mandatory step, but since Twister is the most accurate tornado movie out there, I thought I’d share this YouTube video that features Everything Wrong with the Twister Movie.
Honey, take notes, we clearly need to have a Dodge Ram and you need to start reading dirt to be an accurate tornado chaser.
If you would like to visit the Twister Museum please follow the link: http://www.twistercountry.com/ Their 20 year celebration is in September 2015!
The Weatherman Meteorologist is having a baby!
We found out in January 2015 that we are pregnant and expecting Baby Brackett in October! We are so excited to welcome little Brackett, but, we wanted to wait until after the first trimester to announce the news to the world.
When you become pregnant and make the announcement, it’s a wonderful feeling to hear all the ‘congratulations’ and excitement from friends and family. But when you have such a unique job, like a weatherman meteorologist, you get a lot of the same jokes, comments, and questions about your little one. So, to help answer all your questions, and to avoid hearing the same jokes over and over again, I thought I’d write down some of the things we’ve heard:
- Yes, he did make it rain that month.
- Yes, his ‘forecast’ was accurate as well.
- Yes I did expect a more than a few inches that night also.
- No, we won’t be naming our child after a weather term. There will be no: Summer, Autumn, April, Breeze, Bayou, Cloud, Frost, etc.
- Ok, you caught me I did consider one weather term for a middle name, I thought of the name Farrah for Fahrenheit, but then thought twice about it and decided, NO.
- Yes, we planned on not having a baby during a sweeps/ratings month.
- No, we won’t be shoving weather down the babe’s throat and force them to become a weatherman/or weatherwoman meteorologist.
- Yes, we think little baby weather books are adorable and Grandma Brackett may have hooked us up with one or two already 😉
- Yes, Aaron will be teaching the babe math and science, I will stay far away from both subjects and focus on teaching them other subjects (? TBD)
- Yes, our life insurance is good to go with Aaron storm chasing this season.
- I don’t know how I’m going to get down into our shelter if I need to take cover, I hoping the dogs will help me?
- Yes, I am expecting a onesie that says “My daddy is a weatherman meteorologist”
- No, Reed Timmer was nowhere to be found in his “Dominate-Her” vehicle, but if he was it’d look something like this:
We’ll keep you 4-warned about any new baby developments =) I look forward to all the new material you can come up with as these 13 are now off limits!
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/