Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I've Still Got It

When a tornado siren sounds in Kansas, there is a tornado in your county. It may be descending, it may be on the ground, it may be in your backyard, but a siren in Kansas means you hit the basement. I remember spending several nights groggy and in pajamas in our cement basement, my dad fiddling with the 24” box TV for the weather report; my little sisters already asleep again in my mom’s arms, the sirens barely muted by our shelter.

Kansas Sirens = Impending Tornado Danger = Basement Now

Alright. Let’s transition from my childhood to my current adult life in Cincinnati. The land of Cincinnati is not in tornado alley, nor is it plagued (blessed) with dramatic and violent thunderstorms. After two years here, I have discovered that Cincinnati sounds the tornado siren ANY TIME THERE IS POTENTIAL FOR A STORM TO CREATE ROTATION. They sound the sirens as soon as a tornado WATCH is issued.

You can imagine my process of discovery here. (Picture the sirens sounding while I’m a work; I jump up scattering the papers I am organizing, scan the sky, and immediately hustle to the back room where there are no windows. I sit Indian style facing the wall and cover my neck with my hands. And there I await my doom. In the meantime, my coworkers stare, more startled by my rehearsed and rapid movements than by the sirens themselves.) A few instances like this made the situation clear.

New Equation:
Ohio Sirens = Storm with Qualities that May or May Not Be Able to Produce Tornadic Activity = Maybe Check the Weather on the Web But Mostly Just Carry On

Now that I am aware of this change, I have pretty much adjusted. Though sirens still cause my my blood to pound and my senses to go into high gear, I can talk myself out of flight or fight mode. My subconscious however, is still programmed to Kansas settings.

At 4:00am last night, the sirens sounded. My brain picked up on the sound and, before I was even conscious, started shooting my blood full of adrenaline. Without my conscious logic to explain the non-danger, my subconscious brain prepared me for action. By the time my eyes popped open and my body shot out of bed, I was on a trajectory. Grab phone, computer, toothbrush, contacts, warm clothes, husband. Basement.

I was halfway into the bathroom, gripping my cell phone and rehearsing efficient instructions for my tornadic-ly inexperienced husband, before my knowledge caught up with my reflexes. 

There was no current danger. As I stood and listened to the thunder in our dark, peaceful, quiet home, I found myself torn between annoyance and pleasure at my reaction.

Annoyance because clearly it was unnecessary, but pleasure because it reminded me of my Kansas homeland. Also pleasure because I probably would have made it out alive if there actually was a tornado. Pleasure because, in theory, I’ve still got it.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get back to sleep after the adrenaline rush, so I laid in bed as the storm passed through and thought of a million emergency contingency plans. O and I wrote most of this post.


  1. ahhh this is lovely.

    I would love to hear ceej's perspective on that night.

    also, I would kill for a thunderstorm

  2. Ceej didn't even wake! Good thing I have horse reflexes. (explaination : horses always survive tornadoes...they have natural evasion instincts or something.)

    maybe you will bring a big thunderstorm with you when you visit. do it!


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