Dear people living in Tornado Alley,
I should have known better. Tornado season typically runs from March to June, but we were so close that I thought I would squeak by. As I watched my children huddled in the bathtub, clutching stuffed animals and their tablets, I thought, well, were the dogs really that stinky, Melanie? Couldn’t you have battled the tufts of dog hair lining the baseboards just a little bit longer?
All joking aside, I am just glad we were ready for scary weather and had a room to shelter in. I learned a lot about disaster readiness working as a news reporter! Seeing the devastation caused by fires, floods and other natural disasters taught me to be more prepared than my slacker mom personality normally calls for. When the meteorologists even hint that conditions are ripe for a tornado, I immediately launch into WHERE mode, as in WHERE are your tennis shoes, no flip flops are not okay, WHERE are the blasted dog leashes, WHERE are the bike helmets, WHERE are the extra phone chargers and WHERE are we going to go?
If you are new to tornado season, there are a few things that are essential. You need a plan, a safe room, sturdy shoes and helmets for all family members, and you need to sleep in your clothes. People, trust me on this. You do not need to be barefoot, feeling around in the dark for a flashlight wearing nothing but your American flag skivvies at 2 a.m. You also need a disaster kit at the ready and in a place that is easily accessible!
I always keep my “go box” in the master closet. That way, I can keep the kids out of the snacks! Stock it in March and clear it out after June. I like to include food that stays good for a long time, including jerky, nuts, peanut butter crackers, granola bars and chocolate. I add to it each year as our needs change, so my go box is actually more like a wheeled suitcase these days. In our old house, we sheltered in the master closet. So I kept a large bowl, toilet paper, wipes and trash bags in the box. I added all the toys we got from restaurant kids meals, books, magazines, crayons, coloring books and Mad Libs. In my opinion, finding something outlandish and silly to focus on helps make scary situations a little better.
Upon examining my first go box, The Hubs pointed out that I didn’t have anything practical stored inside. I realized immediately that he was right! So I added a box of wine, dog food, dog treats, extra leashes, plastic dishes, snacks and soft travel blankets. He sighed. Then he added a flashlight, weather radio, extra batteries, bottled water, snacks, rope, a utility knife and first aid supplies. That box was too heavy to carry, so I switched to the wheeled case. Frankly, folks, I am pretty sure I am a genius!
If you don’t have a storm shelter, safe room or basement, look for a windowless interior room or closet with a study door. Our new house has a large window directly across from the master closet, so we had to look for another hidey hole. We settled on my daughter’s hall bathroom. It is windowless and has a large, heavy tub. It is a massive bathroom. Well, it seems massive when I am scrubbing it, anyway. It is miniscule when two adults, two preteens, two Great Pyrenees dogs, a go suitcase, pillows, a host of stuffed animals and an American Girl doll shelter inside it. The kids were uncomfortably crammed in the tub, I was sitting on top of the toilet, the dogs and The Hubs were on the floor. No one could turn around for all the stuff in there and my precious babies are having small skirmishes over elbows and knees and the giant chrome water spout. The only living being that seemed to be enjoying this family togetherness time was Dutch, who was stoned on doggy Valium and getting to lay on his favorite person. If we had stayed in there any longer folks, it would have been time for momma to open up that box of wine!
When the wind settled and we decided it was safe to leave the bathroom, we tucked the kids in. I made them leave their shoes and shorts in the bathroom just in case we had to return. I stacked up devices and chargers and leashes and crawled into bed. I was thankful that despite several tornadoes being spotted and at least one touching down, we were all ok.
A little bit of excitement was enough to last me and we still have another month before tornado season is typically over! If you don’t have a plan and a go suitcase ready, it’s probably time you did! There are lots of online resources for disaster kits, some even come inside a bucket that converts into a toilet for folks that aren’t sheltering in the bathroom!
And I promise to wait as long as possible to wash my dogs, car and floors again!