I used to absolutely love thunderstorms. The heavy feel of the air pressing down on my body when I stood outside sniffing at the air, knowing a humdinger of a storm was on its way. The bruised color of the sky as the storm moved into our area and the smell of the pending rain all around me. The way it got darker and darker outside, as if it were nighttime, instead of 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon and the delicious sound of the far off thunder.
And then, there was the spectacular moment the heavens opened up, lightening cracking across the sky while I watched from inside the house, mesmerized at the heavy rain and hoping the electricity doesn’t go out. I mean, I lived for thunderstorms where I could doze on the couch, with that storm sound in the background, a lovely white noise.
Storms relaxed me, but not anymore.
I watch the weather forecasts now while biting my nails down to the quick and not even realizing it. If weather heads into our area, I find different websites that offer radar readings, and compare each one to where we are on the map. One says 1-2 inches possible. Another says it’s going to barely clip our area. Another says to take shelter immediately. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
I’m simultaneously swallowing coffee and Xanax*. I want to be relaxed enough to enjoy the lovely but severe weather but alert enough to be able to get down the basement stairs when and if the tornado alarm goes off. Anxiety always wins and the coffee ends up aggravating it.
Back then, when I enjoyed the storms, it was all about lighting a few candles in case the power goes out. Now, it’s about making sure that not only are the candles lit…but that we have flashlights, our most important documents in a baggie (think passports and birth certificates and the new book I haven’t read) and enough dry towels to mop up the seepage that will start coming in from the walls and window wells soon enough. You see, we have been burned before: the first time while Joe was visiting me in Plainfield in 2006.
In 2006, Rockford was deluged with rain on Labor Day. It flowed like a raging river into the back of our house while he was sitting in my Plainfield living room, blissfully unaware. It broke out two basement windows and flooded the entire basement. Five feet of water in the basement and goodbye to the water heater, washer, dryer, and of course furnace.
Rinse and repeat that in 2007 although not as bad…The window wells flooded, the walls seeped, and we mopped up water for two days before our honeymoon and ended up sleeping away the entire first 24 hours of our trip to Mexico.
Repeat again in 2009, when sadly the train tracks were washed away in Cherry Valley and the train derailed. The storm sewer crossed with the drains somehow, we got six inches of rain dumped on us, and I don’t know what the hell happened but suddenly we had storm water surging up through every drain in our basement. We lost that fight as well as our water heater again. Two sump pumps later and it still took weeks to clean up from that mess. We were lucky compared to most…our basement is not finished so we’re working with cement that can be easily mopped.
We put in a real sump pump that year.
Since we’ve been burned so badly, when the weather threatens and there’s a chance that we could get some bad storms now—meaning lots of rain—my gut churns and my heart jumps into my throat. Although I still enjoy a good thunderstorm, I also get that sinking feeling that something is going to happen to our basement; either windows will break out and we’ll have a huge disaster on our hands, or spend hours squeegeeing and sponging and drying up our basement for days on end. Storms don’t hold the same appeal anymore.
However, since I’m from the Midwest, in Illinois, I of course will stand on the porch until the last second, until the twister is practically in our front yard before I’ll hightail it to the basement. I mean, dude. I did used to live in Tornado Alley.
As I get older now, I have to balance that “hold my beer” mentality against how fast I can make it down the stairs with a knee that sounds like Rice Krispies.
Having said that, lest you think I’m irresponsible, I would like to also point out that I am down in the basement long, long moments before my husband believes we’re in imminent enough danger that he deigns to come down the stairs. He normally just stands at the top of the stairs and laughs at me for being down there with the TV blaring warning sounds. Yuck it up, Huckleberry. We’ll see who’s laughing when you’re sucked up into the sky along with the basement door, a’la Twister.
Until then, I’ll cower downstairs, thanking God that we have a cozy basement to bunker down in, and wait for the all clear.
So I can mop up the water.