When you live in Connecticut, you are used to snowstorms and blizzards and the occasional hurricane.
But when there is a warning about the potential for a tornado, it’s kind of like getting a blizzard warning when you live in Florida.
Tornadoes don’t generally happen here.
So yesterday morning when I checked the weather on my phone and saw the word tornado, I kind of shrugged it off.
Around 4 pm yesterday it started getting dark. A storm was coming. We knew it was going to rain and that we could have some really strong thunderstorms. That wasn’t a surprise.
I went into the backyard by the pool to pick some stuff up in case the winds were strong. The push mower and the tractor were out back. I put the push mower in the garage and fired up the tractor. I figured I’d cut the grass a little until it started raining. The sky was dark, but sometimes those clouds kind of blow around us.
My phone was inside and I hadn’t checked it all afternoon.
Numbers 5, 6, and 7 were out back by the pool playing. I told them if they heard thunder to go inside. And then I went back to cutting the grass.
About five minutes later, it went from literally nothing happening to Armafuckinggeddon.
And I am not exaggerating.
The intensity of this storm was no joke.
And now, in hindsight, neither was the tornado warning.
Numbers 5, 6, and 7 ran around to the front door and into the house.
I can’t even think about how badly things could have gone.
I should never have let them stay outside.
I tried to put the tractor in the garage, but then the wind got so bad and the trees were bending so hard that I left it halfway in the garage and ran inside.
I got all the kids and we went into the basement.
Numbers 3 and 4 were annoyed that I was making them sit down there. They had both been in their rooms and they were completely oblivious to what was going on outside.
Numbers 5, 6, and 7 were panicking a little bit. Number 6 and 7 were crying and asking if they were going to die.
And then the power went out.
I’ll be honest. I was kind of shitting in my pants.
But I did a pretty good job of staying calm because I did not want the little guys to completely lose it.
About 15 minutes later, everything quieted down.
I told the kids to stay in the basement and I went upstairs to check things out.
It was about 5:00 so there was still plenty of daylight.
It was surreal outside.
Except for the sounds of the rain and the occasional rumble of thunder, it was silent.
I told the kids they could come upstairs.
Number 7 came outside and said, “Mommy, it looks like the end of the world out here.”
There were leaves and branches and shingles and window screens everywhere.
The front of the house looked like it had been sprayed with the pink petals from the tree in front of our house.
All the roads surrounding us were completely blocked off by trees and power lines.
Later I’d find out that just about every single road in my town looked exactly the same. Or even worse.
There were cars trapped everywhere and cars that had trees fall on them.
People slowly started emerging from their cars and houses.
Anyone with a chainsaw came out into the street.
The people with the chainsaws started cutting trees apart, and the people in their cars started dragging pieces of them to the side of the road.
This was the view to the left of my house:
This was the view to the right of my house:
I live on the corner of an intersection. This was the view down the other street my house is on:
All you heard was chainsaws and sirens in the distance.
Every road in my town looked like this. Many were worse. They still are.
There were not enough police or emergency vehicles to get to everyone. Not nearly enough.
People who were stuck in cars started driving over the downed telephone and power lines to the right of my house. The lines were getting stuck between their front and back tires to the point that they were almost pulling telephone poles down as they attempted to drive through.
My husband and I stood in the middle of the road waving our arms and screaming like maniacs at the people who were nearly pulling down telephone poles as the drove over and through the lines.
I called 911, but there were no people available to help. They told me I’d have to direct traffic myself and keep people away from the lines.
My husband got some scaffolding stuff out of his shop in the garage and blocked off the road with he downed lines, and we stood in the road for two hours directing traffic away from the power lines.
By 7 pm people had been stuck in their cars trying to find a way home for over three hours. Traffic was lined up a mile down the road from our house. People were gridlocked, and nobody could go anywhere.
I walked down the line of traffic and told people they could come use the bathroom if they needed. At least 10 people took me up on the offer. We refilled a bucket with water from the pool so people could flush.
People parked their cars in our driveway or down the road at the middle school and just started walking. Some people had three or four miles to walk, but they didn’t care. They just wanted to get home.
A couple hours later people had cut down enough of the fallen trees and moved enough debris that you could navigate and zig zag your way down a couple of the roads.
Around 9:30 pm when the traffic had thinned out and one of the roads by my house finally opened up, I loaded the kids into the car and headed to my parents’ house about a half hour away. They had power. I crossed my fingers and hoped we could get there.
They had some rain and a little wind at their house, but that was about it, and thankfully, we made it there without any problems.
My parents have a little house with three bedrooms, but they were ready for us. They had blown up air mattresses so everyone had either a bed or an air mattress.
By 10:30 we were safe, cozy, and dry, and all the kids were asleep.
And this morning while many of my friends were blocked into their houses with impassable roads or had no power or had cars that were trapped in driveways under trees or had been left abandoned on the street between downed power lines and fallen trees, my kids were eating pancakes made by Papa.
We had running water and television and wifi and we were super fortunate.
Our town, on the other hand was not so lucky.
I have read that we were the hardest hit town in Connecticut.
I’m not sure if this is actually true, but I can tell you it looks like a war zone out there. You know that movie Red Dawn? The original one with Patrick Swayze?
It looks kind of like that. But with way more trees.
I went back home to get some stuff this morning and the destruction is unbelievable.
Just along a short stretch of my road it looks like this:
Here are the remains of one of our trees:
This is a friend’s back yard:
And that’s just a picture of one friend’s house. Almost everyone’s yard in town looks like this. People have two, five, fifteen trees down in their yards.
The chimney was ripped off of my neighbors house. A friend has a tree in her bedroom and another in her bathroom.
My favorite Facebook comment from a friend?
We don’t own a trampoline… but we have one in our yard.
Our town was declared a disaster area, and it will be several days before we all have power back. Maybe even weeks for some people.
But out of the destruction and devastation comes something else.
Power crews from New Hampshire and Massachusetts are here. Fire departments from other towns and counties are here.
People are helping their neighbors.
Neighborhoods are coming together and taking care of each other.
Disasters like this sure do bring out the good in people.
And tree by tree, house by house, we will all be fine.
But HOLY SHIT, it was a scary night last night.
And nothing like a little tornado to help you keep things in perspective.