It’s an Ill Wind

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It was June 8, 1953.  I was sitting on my mother’s lap in the basement as we listened to the wind howling outside.  Every so often a loud crack of thunder would startle me and I’d bury my face in my mother’s shirt as she hugged me tightly.  I was 4 years old, too young to really understand everything that was to happen but old enough to remember the event clearly 56 years later and certainly old enough that it forever created in me a VERY healthy respect for strong storms.

We were lucky that day.  We escaped the fury of that storm with just an hour of temporary discomfort sitting in the basement.  The folks one town away from us weren’t so lucky.  An F5 tornado cut a 4-mile long path of destruction through the town of Beecher, Michigan and the surrounding area, bypassing our town by just a few miles.  When it was over, 116 people were dead and 844 people were injured.

The news reports were filled with images that resembled a war zone.  Houses leveled, people wandering with dazed looks on their faces, trees and power lines down everywhere.  Slowly stories began to filter through.  One that I’ll never forget was a story I heard where a father grabbed his child with one arm and grabbed a telephone pole with his other arm, trying to hang on.  He kept his grip but watched in horror as his child was torn from his grasp by the wind.  The child was one of the fatalities.

All this came back to me yesterday when my daughter called and told us about driving home from their company picnic in a terrible storm.  Trees were down all along their route and the wind was whipping branches back and forth effortlessly.  At one point, they had to drive over a big branch in the road and at another point, a tree was down and across the road but leaning on something on the other side so cars were able to drive UNDER the tree to continue on.  That’s what they did.  I shuddered to think of it.  If it had been me, I would have headed for some place that was open and gone inside for shelter.

I did that once several years ago.  A freak storm came up suddenly as I was driving home.  The wind came out of nowhere from the side and almost blew the car over and then the rain started, pummeling the car and making it almost impossible to see.  I was scared out of my wits.  I was near a small hospital and I pulled into their parking lot.  Maybe I should have stayed in my car but all I could think of was getting into a building and down into a basement.  I threw open the door (well, it blew open and out of my hands as soon as I tried to open it) and dashed into the building.  About 20 pairs of eyes looked up at me startled.  I must have been a sight —dripping wet, wild-eyed, and gasping out, “Storm!”  I had dashed right into a waiting room.  I managed to calm down enough to mumble something about just waiting there until things calmed down and that’s just what I did.  I sat my wet self down and watched the wind and rain play havoc outside.  What I REALLY wanted to do was herd everyone down to the lowest level but no one seemed too perturbed so I tried to get a grip and restore myself to some semblance of control.  It’s amazing how our past imprints itself on our present, isn’t it?

I was so glad to hear that my daughter and husband made it back home safely.  Her biotech facility is completely without power, at least it was as of last night.  When she had called the power company to get an estimate on when power might be expected to be restored, they told her two weeks.  Yikes!  I hope they get it back sooner because there are a lot of projects that will be ruined if it takes that long.  But projects can be redone.

Today the sky is blue and I’m listening to the birds sing.  My memories of 1953 are ready to be tucked back into a safe recess, hopefully not to emerge again until the next storm clouds gather and a warning siren sounds.


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Hot Flashed Funk

  • A well written and interesting post, Dee!

    You have a good reason to be afraid of storms.

    Anyway, who needs a ‘good reason’?

    Storms are frightening.

    We had several Tstorms go over last night – and I mean RIGHT over. I did not sleep until they calmed down somewhat.

    I’m glad it wasn’t windy as well. I have a very healthy fear of wind. An F5 tornado went through the city where we lived in 1987 – I saw it in my rear view mirror as we drove out of the city to begin our holidays. But I was afraid of tornados before that anyway….even though we don’t get alot of them here.


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