The sirens started going off as I walked to my class tonight in Iowa City. You know — the kind of sirens that go off at noon. But it was 8:30 at night on the longest day of the year. These were your basic don’t-ignore-me-duck-into-shelter-sirens, which I was happy to do. But the front door to the closest building was locked. Just a quick one-minute walk around to the side door, but you know what happens to the people in the movies who can’t get into the building.
I’ve seen way too many horror movies.
Meanwhile, the Iowans were sauntering along without a care in the world. I wondered if maybe they had a special dispensation from being touched by a tornado. But I’m from California so my dispensation is for earthquakes. I wasn’t sure if it extended to tornados.
So, I began to worry about whether or not I should be worried.
I made it into the building where my class would be meeting. We had to stay in the below-ground-level hallway of the natural science building where display cases filled with replica of a giant ape, a three-foot long grasshopper, giant lobsters, and assorted plant life lined the walls.
Like I said, I’ve seen too many horror movies.
One woman in my class, an Iowan, had her Blackberry set to track the storm. Hot pink hovered over Iowa City.
The air in the building began pressing in on me; a band tightened around my head and my ears plugged up like I was in an airplane. The hot humidity made the hallway feel like a sweatlodge.
It’s the waiting that was weird. It’s so nice here. So un-monster like. And there we were waiting for a monster that might or might not exist.
Suddenly, literally, suddenly, the air turned cool and stopped pressing in on us.
Talk about letting go.
The siren went off again and an unintelligible announcement wafted through the air. It might or might not have been the all-clear siren. Not even the Iowans seemed to know.
The Blackberry tornado tracker changed to red over Iowa City. Heavy rain.
On my walk back to the hotel, lightning lit up the sky behind the clouds. Like this nice Iowa City was surrounded by the primordial void.
Nature doesn’t mess around.
I found myself almost (almost) hoping that a tiny little tornado (if there is such a thing) had touched down. So there would be a definite before and after.
I had to settle for the change in air pressure.
So here I am in Iowa City hanging out in my hotel room where we are on tornado watch for another few hours.
I’m no longer worried about whether or not to be worried. If the sirens go off, I just head into the bathroom and close the door.
Now that’s a monster I can deal with.
I once was in Iowa City in the University’s hotel at the end of my conference. Everyone I knew had already left to go home — that is, but me. I had to wait until morning for a plane to California. So, I am in jammies and I’ve got the TV on, and it starts doing the beep…beep…beep thing — the sound from the TV when “this is a test of the emergency response system.” Only it wasn’t.
So, they are showing me maps of the area, county by county, of where the tornados are — but I am not even sure what county I am in or how close the sightings are to Iowa City. 20+ years ago, I do not have a laptop with Internet access. So, I open my door and look out in the halll — no one stirring. Surely someone knows I am here – right? Oh well, turn off the light, turn off the TV, and listen carefully…
That was my first tornado warning in Iowa City. Have had plenty of hurricane warnings (and hurricanes!) here in Florida. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes – as my sister says, we don’t have any disasters in Maine, just long, cold winters. Not sure which I prefer.
It was great meeting you, Karen. I look forward to finding out more about what’s in your shed.
It was an interesting experience. Of course with earthquakes, you get no warning.
Great meeting you as well. We shall keep in touch.