Recently, a derecho was predicted. I had no idea what this was, so I googled it. A widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms often delivering torrential rains, flash floods, strong winds, and potentially rivaling hurricanic and tornadic forces.
The media hype around this was intense. Locally, a few events were cancelled because originally it was to reach us around 5:00 pm. Then 7:00. Then 11:00. I have no idea when it actually hit because it turned out to be a thunderstrike and some rain. In no way am I diminishing what happened in other parts of the country where there was widespread damage. However, here, I heard that a Detroit newswoman camped out in Adrian waiting for something exciting to happen, and she never got her story.
We live in a part of the country where severe weather is not only a possibility but a likely scenario. When we first moved here, I remember driving down M-50 between Dundee and Tecumseh and being able to see fields for miles, and in my head I could also picture the tornadoes barreling across those fields. Having lived on the east coast, understand that the landscape is much different – cluttered with not only hills and valleys, but buildings and highways. Tornadoes are rare. There aren’t fields as far as the eye can see. I felt vulnerable driving down the center of a seemingly endless road with nowhere to hide.
My kids have come to know our weather patterns as a way of life. Some years are worse than others, and we have plans in place and they know the procedure. They have done the drills at school and at home and know to move quickly.
Spending a large chunk of our time at the lake has proved tricky, as I view our cottage there as little more than a tornadic death trap. My only plan there is to get out of dodge. Worst case scenario I shove the whole family under an overturned couch. But I digress.
A few years ago, we had a particularly volatile season, and anyone who lived here at the time recalls the tornado that hit Dundee. Part of what made that scary was the timing, in that it was late in the evening. We heard sirens in town, and tore upstairs to collect our children to take them to the basement. They were all completely asleep, and where I never pictured it would be an issue to wake them up and take them downstairs, it was an issue. Avery, being much smaller than he is now, but still too large for one person to carry him, was so asleep that Lee and I carried him together, Lee with hands under his armpits and me with his feet, down two flights of stairs. We plopped him on the couch in the basement and ran back up for the girls.
I can’t remember why exactly, but for some reason Lee hadn’t followed me up the stairs immediately. Ruby was too big for me to carry, so I grabbed Rita. It was like Sophie’s Choice. I had to leave Ruby upstairs alone while I yelled to Lee to go get her. The craziest part about all of this is that all of the kids slept through all of the havoc, and didn’t wake up until much later, just in time to walk themselves back upstairs.
So, when the derecho was on its way, Avery was very concerned about us being able to wake him up. He weighs as much as I do, so there is no way we could have just moved him when needed. So he slept on our bedroom floor. I convinced the girls that derecho meant ‘high pollen count,’ so they went to bed blissfully unaware that any weather was on the way. I had grand plans to beat together pots and pans to wake them up to avoid another Sophie’s Choice, but it was unnecessary. No derecho.
I think about places like Oklahoma where severe weather seems a regular thing, and I find myself grateful for the safety of Michigan and our basements. My kids are growing up with a knowledge of drills where they crouch end to end with books over their heads, much like I did as a child. They trust that we will keep them safe, even if it means carrying them down two flights of stairs in their sleep. And that’s what we aim to do.
How do you handle severe weather with your child?by