Battle Creek Tornado Touchdown, Sunday, May 29, 2011

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The final words from my previous post on learning new things in May were “And just think… there are still 3.5 days left in the month to learn and do even more interesting things.” Little did I know then how much there was to learn in the past three days. (Note to self: NEVER post about future possibilities again, except when writing fiction.)

Back up in time to last Saturday afternoon: I walked around our yard, picking up three handfuls of small twigs. Twenty-four hours later, I wondered how to pick up the several trees in our yard and through our house.

Sunday, May 29, 2010, at 4:29 p.m., a tornado touched down in our neighborhood.

First of all, my husband and I are safe. Although I know of several close calls, miraculously, no bodily injuries occurred as a result of it. I can’t say the same for our house.

Secondly, ever since the tornado struck, we have been without electricity and water. It may take weeks to restore. There is obviously much, seemingly unending, physical labor to do. I am torn between clean-up efforts and recording/communicating. However, I shall post when I can.


Sunday afternoon, my husband heard the tornado siren. Like we normally do whenever we hear it (from years of living in tornado alley Iowa), we headed for the basement. He had on the weather radio, but it only warned of rain and strong winds. A couple of minutes (2!) after we were downstairs, we heard loud, scary sounds of which I’ve never heard before. People say, “A tornado sounds just like a freight train.” Freight trains go through Battle Creek all the time. They sound more like clickety-click than the rushing, whooshing, mob-of-ghostly sounds we heard. I’d always thought the brick chimney which goes from roof through ground floor to basement would be the safest, sturdiest place to hunker down next to in case of a tornado. But the overhead wind and crashing noises kept me several steps away from that tunnel to the tornado.

Things went black. Then came the bams. Loud. House-shaking. Bam. Bam. After I realized the basement ceiling was still in tact and we were uninjured, my husband and I just stared at each other in the measly little generator night-light.

Two trees came through our house – an 80’ oak tree which uprooted and smashed away the corner of our bedroom, and another oak, much taller and thicker, the top half which twisted off and then sailed into our garage roof.

Witnesses say three tornadoes were spotted at the same time, in the same area of Battle Creek – our area!

Once the noise was over, the wind and rain stopped just as if some giant had sneezed. The storm was loud. It was quick. It was gone nearly as quickly as it came.

My husband and I ventured upstairs. Power lines were down. Everywhere we looked, trees lay across our roads and over houses and on cars. Small rivers ran through the grassy ditch dents next to the narrow roads, too wide to leap over without getting wet — the least of our problems. Neighbors trickled from their houses. We all clustered together, as if fragile humans have the ability to protect each other at times like this. I’m sure it was more about security.

Although our cars were apparently safe in the garage, we couldn’t get out of our driveway for the trees laying in it. Even if we could, we couldn’t get more than three houses away.  Trees blocked every possible exit.

Interesting thing from this: neighbors become the old-fashioned neighbors you read about elsewhere. Before this, we mostly acknowledged each other with nods or waves and occasional brief conversations. Now there were individual survival stories to tell. All of us needed to communicate. The stories. Lots and lots of stories.

I will post more when and as I can. This initial post was simply to let you know we are safe.  Much more coming. Promise. Like I said, we people have a need to tell our stories.

(P.S.  When I can get to an SD card reader (not exactly a top priority at this point), I’ll post photos on my FaceBook page.

18 thoughts on “Battle Creek Tornado Touchdown, Sunday, May 29, 2011

  1. Oh, Sandy! And you wanted something exciting to happen, did you? Ever since I saw it on the news I’ve been following the story. Sooooo glad you’re okay. The pictures of massive trees through houses didn’t look very comfortable. I was hoping you weren’t the people whose house was sliced in half by a tree. But it sounds like you got even more pieces. Yikes! Good luck with the cleanup–AND getting water and electricity.

    Agree with you on the freight train sound not being quite right. Definitely more of a pulsing whoosh. I hope you have extremely calm, nice weather from here on out! (And aren’t you glad we decided to take a break this week?!)

  2. So sorry Sandy. Glad you’re safe. Actually I drove on I-94 about 10:30 am that day and a power line closed the highway. Driving to the next exit I saw a lot of uprooted trees and power lines down even then.

  3. Hi Sandy,

    Though I don’t think we have ever ‘met’ I am very glad to hear you and family are doing fine. Holler if you need anything.


  4. Sandy – oh my gosh. My husband and I ended up in our basement with the tornado siren going off in our village. We were fortunate here – nothing like what happened in BC – I’m so glad you are alright.

    Sorry to hear about the damage done to your house though. Perhaps there is a good reason this happened…did you need some repairs done? Now you have insurance available to pay for your damage and rebuild maybe in a different way, hey?

    Hugs…again, I’m so glad you came out of it unscathed.

  5. Hi Sandy,
    Thanks for sending out the news about your situation. Wow. I’m praying for you guys, and for your neighbors. Anything I can do? Send you? Help with? Just let me know. Thank God you are okay and everyone around you is okay.

    I was heading home from Midland last night when the sirens went off. The sky was so bizarre looking. Very scary. Then it rained so hard I thought my car would have dents in it. Stopped in Sanford to get off the road and the storm blew through. Got home and learned a tornado touched down in Linwood so it went over or around me. That was scary enough for me to go through. Can’t imaging what you saw/heard/felt even though you’ve done a pretty good job explaining it here.

    Hugs and prayers,

    • Going through a storm while you’re in a car is scary, scary, scary! I’m glad you were safe through it all.
      Hug back to you.

  6. Sandy,

    Just read your post and am so sorry to hear about your experience and your home. I was in Hastings, not far from Battle Creek, and we got nothing. I heard Battle Creek had damage and I knew you lived there but didn’t put the two together.

    I’m a good painter and when you get to that point I’d be more than happy to help with the painting.

    • I’m with Sharon – I’m not a perfect painter…but I can definitely help with it. How are you doing now? Where are you staying?

  7. Thanks Sharon and Susan for the help-to-paint offer. Right now we are going through tons of professional contacts — insurance, roofing, building contractor, tree removal. Down the road… Hard to think down the road. Difficult to think further than 10 minutes in the future. GREAT for writing fodder, though, eh?

  8. If a tornado touched down on my house what would it do?Would it kill me?
    I never saw tornadoes in real life but I’ve seen them on tv!they can kill people if they were monster tornadoes.I heard on tv that some tornadoes killed alot of people but I heard that on tv that some people servived from tornadoes.I think we had two tornado drills in Sandusky because when me and my cousin were playing all of a sudden it was just really windy and I saw this funnel cloud it was moving really fast and then it went away,and that tornado drill last summer!Two tornado drills.

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