Saturday, May 23, 2015

Moore in May

It's a curious mindset we have, citizens of Moore in the month of May. With each storm that rolls in and each day that forecasters warn of tornado potential, we shrug our shoulders and say to each other, "Well, it's Moore in May." I'm sure that there are places in the world that become accustomed to environmental dangers that surround the area (I won't even go into man-made dangers like war zones), and, well, Moore is one of them. I'm not sure if the target is over us specifically or what, but the month of May sometimes leaves us pretty scarred around here.

To friends who are reading this in other places, the mindset of Moore residents probably doesn't seem normal on many levels. I sometimes hear people ask, "Why do they choose to live there?" Well, there is a fairly straightforward answer to that for most of us: it's home. Our families, friends, neighbors, homes, histories, schools, and community networks are here. What keeps anyone in the town where they live? Sometimes it's the people, or the parks, or the cultural life, or the amazing food, or the weather. People often like where they live, and lots of people like living here for many of the reasons listed above. Oklahoma City is great, and I like it a lot. My little suburb to the south is a nice place for us to raise our family, send our kids to good schools, be near our parents, and be near many of our friends.

That being said, the thoughts that I sometimes have about the weather, my home, etc. probably aren't typical for most Americans. Yes, I know that every region of the country has its own plights with which to deal. California is kin to earthquakes as New England is cozied up with blizzards. Perils of the environment happen everywhere. But, how often do you really think about the true possibility of losing your home and everything in it to a storm? I think of it often. Very often, in fact, and have become increasingly comfortable with that notion over the past two years, should it ever have to happen to us (knock on wood it won't). How often do you hear your kids point out damage around the town and ask, "Is that damage from the medium tornado or the big tornado?" They are referring to two recent tornadoes that Moore took a hit from, one which was medium-sized this April, and one was the EF-5 behemoth that devastated us two years ago. Silas remembers both. How many of us have five-year-olds that can easily recall two separate natural disasters that happened in their community?

How many have been told by their husbands, "We need to get the kids' birth certificates back into the safety deposit box. (We had taken them out to make copies for a trip.) They probably shouldn't be laying around on the dresser since it's May." Because, duh, they might blow away and never be seen again after a tornado rips through the house. A commonplace thought, right? And how many of us really need to mop the floor after the kids go to bed, but hazardous storms are expected shortly and so we put our dirty floors off to another night---not because we need to keep an eye on the weather (which we do), but because, dammit, I don't want to mop my floors tonight if I'm going to lose my roof to a tornado in an hour. That would be a giant waste of time, right?

There are several pieces of good news here. One is that our house is still standing, and it's May 22! We're almost there! The other is that my kids are total troopers. They stay super cool and collected when it's time to go to the shelter, and they understand on a juvenile level that we might lose it all, but we won't get hurt and we won't lose each other, and that's all that really matters. Flood waters rose from the creek that runs alongside our house on the evening of May 6, as we accumulated 9.38 inches of rain in a matter of just a few hours. That night, I suddenly feared the tornadoes less as I realized I might be about to lose my house to a flood first. The water came within three feet of our western wall, though we still had a foot of foundation to go up. In any case, my kids were as ready as they could be for that too. Several of their backyard toys got whisked away by rising waters, and they gracefully accepted that the toys were gone forever. A trip into the woods behind our house later that week turned up successful though, as I was able to retrieve the three big ones that were lost. See if you can see the wheels of their riding excavator sticking out of that debris pile 100 feet behind our neighbor's house. That took me 15 minutes alone just to dig that one out, and I flicked three spiders off myself in the process. My reward was that I was heralded as some kind of war hero by my children as I emerged from the woods, tattered and filthy, but triumphantly wielding that darn excavator.

These days when storms are expected, my two older kids ask to sleep on a pallet on our bedroom floor. We acquiesce, knowing that storms around here can be loud and scary. When the going gets tough, though, my kids know how to prioritize, and they know how to chip in, help, and prepare. They are becoming well-versed in the storm shelter preparation routine, and they relish some parts of it. Trips to the shelter entail digging into the fruit snacks and Cheez-Its that we keep stocked down there. Hey, if you have to huddle in a dark three-by-eight space for an hour whilst listening to sirens and pounding storms, you might as well get some dinosaur fruit snacks out of the deal! I couldn't be prouder of my kids, just as I couldn't be prouder of my fellow Moore citizens. We are friends with some who have lost all earthly possessions, and they have undeniably had a rough road to bear. I am so proud of all of them and their spirit as they- we- continue to move forward. We're tough around here, and we like to help each other...and you can add that to the list of reasons why I just don't want to move.

The tornado siren: the soundtrack of May

Asleep on the floor in our bedroom

This wasn't the night of the flood; this was just a normal stormy day this May.
THIS was the flood.

The entrance to our neighborhood. Yep.

The debris line came within three feet of the house near the dining room.

The clouds we saw as we came out of the shelter on May 6th

Our routine on tornado-potential days: pull the van all the way forward, open the shelter, and vacuum out all the dead spiders with my friend Julie's amazing hand vac. I think I need one of those things!

In goes the lantern, the radio, the keys, garage door opener, and a pair of shoes of each boy's choosing.

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