“Watches” and “warnings” are pretty common occurrences. We do frequent drills that prepare us for the event of such a storm. When we hear, “this is a test — this is only a test” we switch channels without really thinking about it. But when the air gets a little green, and the wind gets warm and weird, and the weather siren wails from the heart of downtown Carrollton, we start to pay attention. I’ve had a tornado drop a tree on this house, so I take tornadoes very seriously.
This morning, I was only vaguely aware there was “weather” brewing. When I got up, I heard some wind outside, but nothing spectacular. I was still a little bleary-eyed when I turned on B92 and heard Mitch Gray say “Tornado warning till 8:40.” Warning, not “watch.” That means one has been sighted on the ground, somewhere within danger-distance. That moved me to Facebook, where I get community news.
Sure enough there were already photos of downed trees and other messages – from my friend Misty, “Welp, I’m stranded OUT of my subdivision tree across Forrest Drive! It fell while I was gone to take Ben to school.” And from my friend Matthew who lives in Fairburn wrote, “Tornado 1 apparently just skipped a mile to the north of here by 3 miles. Bizarre little cell and its not even windy or raining here.” And from my friend Tina who’s an EMT in Carroll County, “Please say a prayer for my co-workers (including fire dept) and me as we head into work on this day of uncertainty weather. Also for the teachers that will have our children.”
While I was reading, I heard the wind start to pick up, moving the tops of the trees. I switched to The Weather Channel website, where headlines read, “Damaging storms turn deadly, head east.” I decided to go for a walk to see what was going on out there.The air was close and damp. The woods were quiet and calm. The birds were still, without song. And only peevish crows made their morning rounds through the trees. A misting fog had rolled in, covering the hayfield in a haze.
Those damaging storms were on their way.
I walked around a little, stretched my back out a little, and strolled down to let the geese out for their morning graze. As soon as I open the gate, the birds headed straight for the dog bowl water. My cat, “The Atrocious Thing,” doesn’t like non-mammals to drink from the dog bowl water, so she flopped down in their path, ears back, tail twitching, daring them to cross the line. The geese stopped in their tracks, complaining bitterly. They moved in, heads low, and rushed the cat. The Thing gave up her ground and skittered up a tree.
I was watching the cat/goose show and didn’t notice when Big Sophie came around the corner of the house. She put her grizzled head beneath my hand and stood close by me, looking toward the south. She was anxious, like she always was before a bad storm. It seemed like all of us were waiting.
By now the geese had moved away and were cruising through the spring onions, looking for choice bits of grass. Dot, the oldest goose, hopped along with one lame foot and fell only a few paces behind the younger ones. They grazed and moved away toward the road.
Suddenly something startled them. The birds jerked their heads up and started muttering their warning sound. Big Sophie bounded into the woods, her neck ruff slightly up. I followed, curious about what had spooked the geese. We prowled around but couldn’t find a trace of anything amiss. Maybe the birds were jumpy because the storm was coming.
The wind picked up a little, making its way up the hill from the hayfield, past the chicken house, bringing a wet smell with it. It swayed the winter-dead stalks. It pushed past the peach trees. It made it’s way up to me on the hill, making me wish in a moment that I had had worn a coat. It moved the trees above us, whispering leaves and tossing branches. Then a gust blew through and tolled the wind chime hanging in the garden.
Damaging storms were on their way.
What are the odds we’ll get hit by a tornado? Meteorologist Pam Knox, on the University of Georgia Agricultural and Environmental Sciences website, says, “Statistically, the odds of a tornado hitting a particular point are like 1 in 5,000 or so.” So, chances are, we’ll all be fine.
Tomorrow, we’ll all probably be making fun of the weather forecasters for overreacting, like they did with their predicted winter storm that sent us all scurrying to get bread and milk last week. We’ll probably be saying, “all that fuss for nothing.” At least I hope we are. You just never know with tornadoes.
Gentry, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.