“Do you know what today is?” my sister asked when she called me Sunday evening. “Besides Easter, I mean.”

Did I forget someone’s birthday, or another special occasion? I immediately ran through my mental list. March 27. Nothing rang a bell.

“The tornado,” she said. “Today is the 25th anniversary of the tornado.”

She didn’t need to say any more than that. I immediately recalled the day, 25 years ago, when the town we lived in was devastated by a tornado that ripped through the area. My husband, kids, and I had just moved into our home in a new subdivision that was being built not far from where I grew up. It was a windy afternoon when I picked the kids up from school, and the sky grew darker and more threatening after we got home.

I kept glancing out the window as I worked in the kitchen while the kids were watching TV. At one point, I said, “Hey guys, remember – if the tornado siren goes off, we go straight downstairs to the basement. No waiting for a commercial, no stopping to get anything to take with you.”

Just a few minutes later, the siren went off.

As we reached the bottom of the basement stairs, the electricity went out. I turned on the flashlight and portable radio we kept in the basement, but could hear very little except static.

We stayed in the basement until I heard a pounding on my front door. I went upstairs and opened the door to see my dad, who lived about a mile away. He came to make sure we were okay, and immediately started talking about homes that had been damaged or destroyed. I looked around, and saw rubble where houses – or houses under construction – had been, including one that was two doors away from ours. That’s when I realized the tornado had flown right over our house as it hopped up and down through our neighborhood.

No one in our town was killed that day, in part because of a police officer stationed on the outskirts of town who spotted the tornado and sounded the alarm. That gave some people a minute or two to take shelter before their homes were hit.

I grew up in a tornado alley, learning as a child what to do and how to prepare. I’m not afraid of tornadoes, but I do respect them, knowing firsthand what they can do and how quickly they can do it. A house rule I’ve always insisted on is that if we hear a tornado siren, we drop whatever we’re doing and get down in the basement.

Springtime is “tornado season” in our area, even though tornadoes can occur throughout the year. So this seems like a good time to remind everyone that if you hear a tornado siren, it’s not time to grab your smartphone and head outside to take a photo. It’s time to grab your family and head downstairs to the safest area you can find.

And if a tornado does indeed strike, make sure you remember the date. Someone may be asking you about it 25 years from now.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on March31, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016

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