Monday, March 17, 2008

Palm Sunday Tornadoes (1965)

I am reading a book called The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin. It is a book about the 1888 blizzard across the Great Plains, the worst to ever hit that region. But it reminded me (yesterday!) about the Palm Sunday tornadoes in 1965.

Wikipedia tells us about three outbreaks of tornadoes that happened on Palm Sunday. I think that's funny, as Palm Sunday is a different day each year. The 1965 batch trailed across five midwestern states, with 49 confirmed tornadoes, 17 of them of F4 severity. 137 people died in Indiana (my state).

I was nine years old. I wasn't really worried, as our city is located where three rivers meet. An old Indian proverb says that a tornado won't touch down where three rivers meet. (of course, about eight years ago, a tornado did go down the street where I grew up. So much for old proverbs....)

Our house did not have a basement. Mother told us that if there ever was a tornado, we were to get in the Guest Closet. Yeah, right. It was probably four feet wide and six feet deep. Of course, it was under the staircase, so it sloped down to nothing in the back. It also had thirteen glass gallon jars of water on the floor. This was if Ever The Electricity Went Off. The water pump wouldn't work, and if we flushed the toilet or anything, it would Lose Its Prime. Mother changed out the water a couple of times a year, so it would be Drinkable, as well as Flushable.

So, anyway, if a Tornado Ever Came, we would have to Move All The Jars before the seven of us could squeeze into the closet. Fortunately, we never had to.

On that warm day in 1965, though, Mother wasn't going to take any chances. She wanted all of us together, in case we died. We were all squished onto two twin beds in a downstairs bedroom while the thunderstorms went on. Later, after the sun came back out, I remember her making lots of phone calls to tell people we were okay.

I'm sure that our Dopplers and Radar and computers make storm prediction easier, and, certainly warnings come earlier these days. We don't think about it much, here. We have a basement (with a tv, for as long as the power would stay on.) Biggest issue here, when a Warning comes, is, Does anybody know where the cat is?

I've never personally known the aftermath of a tornado. Or a killing blizzard, like I'm reading about. Or a house fire, for that matter. I've led a very protected life. Something for me to be *consciously* grateful for today.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I love this story about that bedroom--I can just see you all! We need to work on YOUR memoirs, apparently, Barbie heart.

The tale of the glass water jars solves a mystery for me: In the last few months I have wondered a great deal about why I have an intense cautious and preparatory streak in me. I am definitely the prepare-for-the-power-outage, think-of-all-the-possible-needs, get-in-the-basement kind of person. I lock every door. I have an escape plan for every room if there were to be a fire, and I try to keep my gas tank half-full in case I need to flee a disaster. HA! I get it from your mother!