Saturday, January 1, 2011
The Final Blessing of 2010: Storm Poem
Yesterday morning, my son called to ask if I could babysit while he took my daughter-in-law to the doctor (eventual diagnosis: bronchitis). You want me to babysit Cameron? Then I rang their doorbell.
They live about 15 minutes away, in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton. They had the windows of their house open – it was unusually warm (mid-60s) for Dec. 31. A cold front was approaching, and a tornado watch had been issued by the Weather Service. Cold air + warm air = tornado possibilities. Although a tornado in December would be extremely rare.
Cameron was sleepy, snuggled in my arms. We were watching one of the bowl games on TV. Cameron had just dozed off when I heard the tornado sirens. Down to the basement we went, and waited. The sirens stopped; we went back upstairs to resume watching the game.
At 11:40, the sirens went off again, and down to the basement we went (my wife has trained me well). We waited for some 10 minutes before the sirens stopped. There was a lot of rain and thunder going on.
Half a mile away from the basement, right across the highway from where my son and daughter-in-law were waiting at the doctor’s office, a tornado hit the roof of a Catholic Church and smashed the rectory, hopped a parking lot and hit a subdivision, damaging or destroying several homes before moving on.
At 11:56 a.m., the sirens went off for a third time, and Cameron (sleeping through the whole thing) and I were back in the basement. Three miles away, about halfway between our home and my son’s home, a tornado had touched down, right in the area where my wife has her Pilates class. Twenty homes were destroyed. Power lines downed, cars and trucks flipped over like toys.
Miraculously – and I mean miraculously – no one was killed. Two minor injuries were reported. Other areas weren’t so fortunate. Three people died in Missouri and two in Arkansas. The town of Robertsville has virtually every building and home damaged or destroyed. (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has extensive coverage and photos, but it usually hides everything behind the firewall after two to three weeks, so this may be a dead link by the end of the month.)
Reports say six tornadoes touched down in the St. Louis metropolitan area. My family was near two of them. Winds were estimated at 160-170 miles per hour, and the storm moved at something more than 50 miles an hour. A few minutes in duration – and lives could be changed forever.
It took three times as long to get home. Several major thoroughfares had to be closed. Traffic was snarled all over the southwestern suburbs. I didn’t see the major damage, but I passed damaged brick walls, large trees snapped in half and downed power lines. Neither my son’s home nor mine suffered any damage.
Last night, my wife and I watched a movie courtesy of Netflix (yes, a wild New Year’s Eve). We had our choice of a comedy series we’ve been watching or Amazing Grace. We picked Amazing Grace. Somehow, it was a fitting ending to the day.
or faint green
patina of an aged painting
still life by a long-dead
Darkness, then sound:
sirens; wind rain hailing
upon the earth
in repetitious crashes
unleashed by skies raging
like old sticks –
In the backyard
I see a robin
pecking for worms.
Photograph: Grey Sky Storm Clouds by Kim Newberg via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.
I’ve linked this poem to One StopPoetry’s New Year’s celebration. To see other linked poems and stories, please visit the site.