The weather turned dark and and the winds and rain began to blast. I left the back door open, with the storm door closed. There was so much force from the rain that water was coming inside at a small gap along the threshold from bouncing against the concrete surface outside. Soon the hail arrived. The weather alarm on the television had instructed us to tune to Channel 2, so I knew that baseball size hail was possible.

A couple of weeks ago at the National Specialty, I was visiting with some friends about traveling to dog shows. We had decided that taking Newfoundlands south was a bad idea in general. When either of us had gone to Texas, our Newfs had been hot in the ring instead of energetic. There is usually a benefit to going north when you show a Newf. Plus, these friends said that their bus had been hit by softball size hail the last time they were in Texas for a show.

The weather reports often indicate the extreme possibilities, but now and then the size of the hail is large enough to do damage. I didn’t want to see baseball sized hail.  The small pieces of hail that arrived at our location were coming down with enough force that a couple of small pieces bounced up and inside at the bottom of the door. The weather was looking fierce.

I had lived in Kansas for many years, and had learned a good deal about weather patterns that lead to tornado formation. I had also learned that listening to the weather being reported on the radio or television would elevate your excitement level and that it wasn’t always accurate for your immediate area. Several times, it was actually worse at my immediate area than was being projected, and once the small tornado that touched down about 1/8 mile behind our house was reported as being another mile away on a different road. I had been through severe weather training year after year, so being prepared in mind with a plan was second nature, as was listening to the weather reports while watching what was overhead.

Several storms had come and gone while we lived in Kansas. One year there were more than usual, and three times I was driving along I70 while the storms were passing across. When storms that produce tornadoes arrive, they are compelling on their own, but when you listen to the sounds of stress or alarm from others, your blood pressure definitely increases. This is not all bad, since you need to be prepared to think and act rapidly if needed, however you need to be able to act deliberately, not in panic.

Most homes were not originally designed with plans for this type of weather. So, you must be prepared to take your best option when things change rapidly. If you are driving on the interstate, particularly on a toll road, you may not have many options. Refueling stations have limited capacity when there are emergency shelter areas.

I heard during one weather report yesterday that there are an average of 10 tornadoes per day during the month of May. Of course, this may be the average of 100 tornadoes over three storms. In any case, there are far too many to not put some effort into being prepared.

As the weather continued to escalate, the dogs and I waited in the kitchen. Our house has a basement, but it is the old type of basement, dusty, but dry. The basement door is in the kitchen, and there are gates that secure the dogs to close proximity, in the event that we need to go downstairs quickly. The kitchen is probably the most secure room on the main floor, with a pantry, a refrigerator, cabinets and appliances that would hopefully leave breathing room underneath and support some of the weight that could accumulate above. But, our plan is to be in the basement in the event that should be needed.

I tried to pay attention to the storm outside and listen to the weather reports inside. The storm door was securely locked with the deadbolt to keep it from blowing open, but as the direction of the wind and rain changed from the north toward the east, I closed the back door and gathered the leashes.

When the air suddenly becomes still during a storm, this is another cause for concern. Sometimes it passes, sometimes you have a narrow miss, and sometimes it suddenly escalates. I opened the back door again, about 10 feet away, to decide whether conditions may be improving or if we should go downstairs. As I opened the back door, air movement rapidly went out toward the north. The wind had changed, and it began blowing from the east.

I checked the television again, and a video was being broadcast of the storm in the north end of Joplin. A reporter could be heard saying, “I don’t think it will hit our station.” About 30 – 45 seconds later, that station went off the air.  This was at around 5:15 – 5:30 p.m.

At the end of a storm, or at a pausing point during stormy weather, there may be some unusual lighting, and the winds will lay again. This time, when the winds let up, and I began checking the channels for information, the news was unbelievable, except for the reality of the situation.

It is hard to know what to do. I called the local Sheriff’s office to offer assistance, then waited. It was 8:15 at night, but I decided to give Parker a bath, in case his company could benefit some of the storm victims in the next few days. I began clearing space in the house, in case we would need to have guests, and working out how to handle dogs or other pets.

The next morning, I went to the volunteer center in Joplin and signed up. I’ve kept the phones close all night and day, but there hasn’t been a call yet. There are so many people who want to help that there is a surplus of volunteers. This is one of the wonderful things about this community.

It will take a long time to recover. There have been many lives that are changed or uprooted, and many businesses that have suffered damage or have been a total loss. Most of the business district in Joplin is secured, so even businesses that could be open have been closed. Some were closed yesterday that were not impacted directly, allowing their employees time to work through their own losses and impacts, and keeping traffic down for those areas.

The rain continued through yesterday, with iffy conditions for further developments, and today and tomorrow are supposed to be high-risk for conditions that produce high-impact tornadoes.

For now, the sun is shining, the dogs are snoozing, and there is work to be done.

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