“Greetings from Tornado Country”, I texted a friend last week. I was in Oklahoma City in the midst of tornado, thunderstorm, and flash flood warnings. A few hours into the warning, the weather folks added hail storms to the mix. It was scary and fascinating simultaneously.

I had been interviewing staff at a client’s office all day in a conference room without windows. I was blissfully unaware of the oncoming storms … until the interviews ended. At that point, one of the managers said, “I know you’re done but I don’t think you should leave just yet.”

“Really? Why? Is there someone else to interview?”

“No. We have tornado warnings throughout the area.”

Tornado, I thought. Isn’t that what happened in the Wizard of Oz? I expected to see Dorothy, Toto and the Wicked Witches at any minute!

“Oh,” was my clever response.

Those staff members were part of the disaster preparedness team. They proceeded to quickly teach me “Tornado Preparedness for the Uninitiated”. The guys watched the weather reports and taught me how to read the diagrams and what to watch for on the reports. They also taught me the warning sirens that clue us in to get to the safe spots – the lowest point without windows. At one point, they determined I had a safe window to drive back to the hotel – if I didn’t mind some rain and traffic. I figured I could handle that, so I left.

Typically I can handle rain – even a storm – in my own car! Driving a rental with a smaller back window than my car, the defrost function in a different location, and the GPS trying its best to guide me was a bit above my comfort level. Scratch that – WAY above my comfort level. I prayed all the way back to the hotel to make it safely and quickly.

I pulled into the hotel parking lot just as the thunderstorms intensified in my area.

I spent most of the evening in the hotel lobby with my fellow hotel-mates. We alternated between watching the weather – on the screen and live, chatting, and joking. “Hey – look who just walked in! Auntie Em!” said one of the kids in a group that had just checked in.

The weather channel showed graphic footage of devastation – homes, fire stations, and other buildings completely destroyed in some areas. Flash floods occurred in areas not so far from me where people were waist-high in water. I saw tornadoes touch down on the screen. The term “touch down” used to conjure up images of cold brisk fall days at football games. That term takes on a new meaning now.

The sirens went off several times. I stayed put in the lobby area – at any moment we might have to move to the safe spots. Hail was predicted at the airport, a mere 10 minutes from my hotel. And the thunderstorms continued with loud crashes, high winds, and blinding rain.

Gradually, the rain subsided, the wind slowed down, and the twisters dissipated. It was eerily quiet outside. The calm after the storm.

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