Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In the event of inclement weather...

Remember last Friday how I was checking out textbooks and was really interested to see how the publishers were going to integrate technology into the mix? Yeah, not so much.

My friend Elizabeth and I carpooled and after much driving up and down US 31 (yes, Indiana peeps, the same one), we finally realized we were looking for a sturdy campus building, when in fact we should have been looking for a metal shed. Granted, it had a very large sign on it announcing its presence, but we're math teachers. We don't read.

So this warehouse where we were supposed to spend our day was really just a steel frame with a metal roof and walls. Not very reassuring considering the weather forecast for the day. In all honesty though, no one thought it was going to be bad until around 2 p.m.

Our poor presenter was from Arizona. In the whole 15 minutes she got to speak I think she said, "I've never seen this much rain!" three times. Oh, you poor ignorant woman. When the tornado sirens went off and we all huddled over our phones and iPads checking the radar, she said, "Now, let's all focus!"

What? We were focused. Very focused. Just not on her.

Here's where it gets good.

The organizers interrupted and said there was a tornado (duh) and that the building was not safe (duh) and we needed to seek shelter immediately (duh) and we should all GET IN OUR CARS AND DRIVE TO THE STUDENT UNION THREE MILES AWAY. Seriously?!?

Power goes out.

Panic mode sets in.

What would you do? We were being forced to leave, the tornado is very nearby according to the radar (And was in fact very nearby. We had difficulty getting home because of large trees and power lines in the road), and we're in a town that we're only semi-familiar with. I didn't drive, so I hopped in someone else's car and we followed the lead car, as ordered, parked a block away from the building, and ran for it. We made it inside, soaking wet, and waited. About the time they told us they were canceling the event because the weather didn't look like it was going to improve and the power could be out for quite some time, a man from the university told us they were shutting down and we all had to leave the building! Gee, thanks.
The city of Athens on Friday morning. Wait, you can't see where Athens is? Oh yeah, that's because the tornado tracks are RIGHT ON TOP OF IT.

I don't know whose cat I ran over, but my karma must be seriously messed up.

In the end, we did get home safely, but I wouldn't wish that mess on anybody. The tornado we narrowly missed was an EF3 and did some considerable damage. If it had hit us directly, either in the warehouse or when we were driving, I'm not sure I'd be here today.

I've had it with tornados, but I have learned some valuable lessons that may help you in the event your city decides to get pummeled by severe weather every other month.

Lesson #1

Cell phones are not reliable. At all. Even if all the towers haven't been taken out (like last April), everyone and their brother is on the phone at the same time. On Friday, I had four bars and couldn't get a call out. Luckily, someone I was with brought a WiFi hot spot and I had my iPad already tethered to it, so I could use iMessage to text or use email. Last April all (and I do mean all) of the AT&T towers were out, but Verizon had at least one still up and working. Best to have friends on different networks.

Lesson #2

Assume you will not have power. No power means you can't charge your cell phone. See what I mean about cell phones being unreliable? I saw on Facebook last week that when the weather was getting bad, everyone put their cell phones on the charger. At least you can go into it at 100%. And stay off Facebook! It drains your battery.

Lesson #3

Get cash. Another hard lesson from April. Even if you could fight your way to the front of the line at the gas stations, there was no power to run the credit card machines. No cash, no business. Last Friday the AMTs emptied quickly and even the grocery store had a sign that said "$25 max cash back."

Lesson #4

Buying milk will be of no help when you have no power for six days. And you just wasted your cash. Good one.

Lesson #5

When all hell breaks loose, you'll wish you were married to an enginerd. Thanks to Garrick, I think we may very well be the model of preparedness. Seriously. We now have an underground storm shelter that is fully stocked for eight people. Yes, the fire station knows we're there, and yes we used the ADPH list to stock it with the appropriate supplies. We also keep a back-up battery in there that can charge our cell phones and has a light so I don't get scared. We added a fan, which wasn't on the list but seemed necessary if we're stuck down there in the summer.

Our generator is wired correctly through the electrical panel to run our entire house on natural gas. Unless something fails on the gas company's end, we don't need to worry about that going out. We have the weather radio app on our cell phone and a real weather radio. We're about to get a newer, better one with more features. I think it puts a forcefield around the house or something.

THANK GOD we haven't had to use the storm shelter yet because it's coffin-scary, but I rest easier knowing we have it. My biggest problem is I want everyone I love safely in it with me. On Friday I was calling everyone to come over if it got bad.

One friend realized, "do you have room for all of us?"

"Well, maybe not. Just pick your favorite kid and send him down with us."

That poor woman from Arizona probably got on the plane home, never to set foot in this state again.

So whatever happened with the textbook expo? It got rescheduled for this Friday, which is when we're celebrating Pi Day. Which will be my next post. :)

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