Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Tornado Watch

The date was March 26th, 2014, a day that will live in infamy. Oh, the humanity. Oh, the senseless destruction of lawn furniture. Well, OK, destruction is a bit much. Senseless slight relocation is more like it.

It started like any other spring day in the greater Sacramento region. Then the weather moved in. Thunder clouds, lightning, actual heavy rain. Wow, this is exciting, we thought.

I must pause here, and explain the greater Sacramento area weather to all of you who are lucky enough to not be from the greater Sacramento area. We have the most boring weather on earth. And not in the good way, like in San Diego, where the residents “complain” about how the weather is boring because it’s always the same.

“OMG, 78 and sunny again today! It’s supposed to be winter! Sometimes I wish we had real weather! It’s so boring here. LOL”

Bite me, San Diego.

Sacramento weather is not always the same. We have noticeable seasonal weather changes.

We notice in the spring when it’s 29 degrees in the morning and 85 degrees by noon. Our kids go to school in snow suits and come home in shorts. We lose a lot of jackets.

We notice that it gets so hot in the summer that we can’t touch our steering wheels or the metal parts of the seat belt. Vinyl car seats? Good luck.

We notice when the fog gets so thick in the fall that we have to feel our way down the road. Watch out for that boat launch ramp!

And we notice when it rains all winter, but only snows once every ten years, and only for five minutes. Quick, kids, make a snowman… never mind.

You see, that’s the problem. We get weather, just not any of the exciting kind. It’s all the boring kind. I guess the incredibly thick fog isn’t exactly boring, but you get tired of accidentally driving into things after a while.

We’re in the flat part of California. In less than two hours we can drive to the place that has the most recorded snowfall in the United States (in California, believe it or not), but we don’t get any snow ourselves. The beach is far away. The forest is near, but we’re not in it. Because of the location, we don’t get any of the exciting natural disasters, either. No mudslides, no forest fires, no hurricanes, no blizzards, no ice storms, and no tornados. Until March 26th, that is.

We were just finishing dinner, gathered around the dining room table. (Actually, I need to be honest here, we don’t eat in the dining room, it just sounds better in the story.) So anyway, like I was saying, we were all spread out around the kitchen table/bar area/sink just finishing dinner, when my mobile phone buzzed furiously in the front pocket of my jeans. It didn’t feel like any normal text, and when I pulled the phone out to look, my heart dropped into my stomach. Or it may have been the burrito.

A red triangle with an exclamation point inside was flashing at me from the screen.

“Severe weather alert – Tornados in your area – Seek shelter immediately.”

Some unknown weather authority with access to my phone had just advised us to “Seek shelter immediately.” So what did we do? We went outside.

Tornados? Cool! We’re not going to miss this!

From under the edge of the patio cover in the backyard we looked up into the sky, and amid the thunder and lightning we saw a very large cloud, directly over our house, swirling lazily in a circle. No funnel, but the cloud was certainly spinning.


We went inside and turned on the news. The local meteorologist was almost wetting his pants on the air from all the excitement.

Finally people will take me seriously! There is actual news that I am in charge of. I’ll bet that anchor chick that makes three times more than me doesn’t even know how to spell funel cloud!

Funnels had been spotted. At least three of them. None of them had actually touched the ground, but that was beside the point. One of the newscasters was chasing the storm, taking incredibly bad video from the front seat of the vehicle, reporting breathlessly back to the meteorologist who was now in charge of the whole broadcast for the evening. Shut up, Nancy. This is my show, now. Weather channel, here I come!

As the winds in our backyard began to pick up we stood around and contemplated just where to go. We don’t have a basement. Being outside probably isn’t the best idea, but that swirling cloud above us hasn’t dropped a funnel out yet, so we’re probably still OK. How about a bathroom? Hmm… Lightning, metal pipes… I think I heard something once about that being bad... Or maybe it was good because you would be grounded… I can’t remember.

We settled on the downstairs hallway. We didn’t actually go there, but we did decide that was the best place.

As we continued STORM WATCH 2014 from the patio, one of our three-pound plastic Adirondack chairs was blown over and moved a full two feet. It almost put a dent in the lawn. The two swings on our play structure became hopelessly tangled for a minute, then untangled, but that minute was almost unbearable.

Then it was over.

When the fearless roving newsman made it to the highest point in town, the tornado had passed, but do you know what he found?

The rest of the town.

Everyone had jumped in their cars to do the same thing; follow that tornado! So many people ended up on the high overlook road that the reporter couldn’t even find a parking spot.

Other people may seek shelter in a tornado, but not us. We’re so starved for weather excitement, we follow it with our cell phone video cameras rolling.

People in Kansas might just call that a normal summer day, but for us, it was all we could talk about for the next week. Birdhouses had been knocked down. Fences had been blown to a precarious 30 degree angle. Tales of wanton lawn furniture relocation were plentiful.

Turns out, it is pretty exciting here. Take that, San Diego.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Dude. You are pretty funny...I will now spend time binge reading to catch up, because you are worth it.

  2. Thanks, r/b! I appreciate the kind words. I have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are not 100% satisfied with my writing, I guarantee I will keep doing it anyway.
    Enjoy, and please tell your friends!