AUGUST 21, 2009 2:16PM

This really blows

Rate: 80 Flag


That's what's left of my parents' charming, windowed back porch after a tornado blew through their small Midwestern town Wednesday night, tearing off roofs, downing giant oak trees, and miraculously not harming a single person. In a few short seconds, a funnel cloud blew past, tore up the porch and garage, and bit off a big chunk of the roof of the house. Kablammy! 

It's the house I grew up in, and it's where my parents have lived for nearly 60 years; my father designed the house and helped build it, and it housed four children, two dogs, bunnies, parakeets, a small ocean of fish, the odd guinea pig and a rather cranky cockatoo. My folks seem rattled,  but fine. A next-door house was completely shifted on its foundation, walls buckling, and its prognosis sounds none too good. They seem to be particularly sad about a giant, truly beautiful Blue Spruce in the front yard they had nurtured from baby-Christmas tree size that was yanked up by the roots. But generally, nothing but reason for relief.

Like anyone who grew up in or around tornado alley, we grew up thrilling at tornado warnings. The loud beep that interrupted television shows; the occasional blare of the town siren, signaling that a funnel cloud had been sited; the unspeakably creepy, tell-tale green tint that saturates everything outside when conditions are particularly ripe for destruction. But it had all been the stuff of Weather Channel fantasy for me before Wednesday. I'm just extremely grateful my brother Kevin (who took this snap) and his son, Brett, were close enough to drive up and help dig out of this mess. 

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I'm glad everyone is safe.
Wow. Glad your folks are okay. I am sorry about the porch and the roof though. Sending good thoughts to your family.

You know, I was just looking at some pictures I took when my Army unit went down to New Orleans after Katrina. It's frightening when one realizes how vulnerable and helpless we are in the face of nature.
Real life intrudes. Glad everyone is okay.
Wow. Were they in the house when that happened? Glad they are okay, and that the damage wasn't even worse...Hard to imagine a force strong enough to lift a spruce out of the ground. ::shudder::
Damn, they come fast don't they? Thank goodness everyone is okay.
Wow! Glad your family’s okay. If only the losing lives, limbs and property part could be skipped (not to mention all the clean-up), I’d give a lot to actually see a tornado. What a thrill it must be.

And nice use of the technical term: Kablammy!
What everybody else said. I grew up TERRIFIED of tornadoes--the only thrill came when the "all clear" sounded. :-)

Glad your folks are OK; sorry about the damage. :-(
I always thought they sucked.

Stuff can be replaced/repaired.

Reason number 42 why I don't live in the midwest. Glad to hear everyone is ok, sorry about the tree.
...but glad everyone is safe

(accidentally it the wrong key before i finished)
That green tint is really creepy. I've been around a few of those. and the stillness is eerie, too.

I'm so gad that everyone is ok. It's amazing how powerful tornadoes are, and how random.
Well, it looks as though the main part of the house was left pretty much intact so there is at least that nominal blessing to a tragic day in Indiana. Here's hoping that things get back to "normal" quickly.
Oh, Kerry, I am so sorry for your Mom and can carry such memories, and it is so tragic when they are destroyed like this. The spruce tree is an especially poignant loss.
So glad everyone is safe for me too.
Glad everyone is safe and sound! I slept through that crazy storm!
Thanks, everybody. The folks were in the house -- sitting in the living room -- but the sirens didn't go off. By the time they knew to move toward the basement, it was over.

Sao/Stephen: That green light is sort of indescribable. I've read up on what causes that; one theory is that it occurs when clouds are particularly tall, and light filters differently through them, and all that water -- sort of like the weird light when you snorkel. It's an otherworldy glow.
I'm so sorry Kerry for the loss and damage to property, glad they no loved ones were injured. I think there's a common response to people that live through something as frightening as this--that they are thankful they survived, and mourn the loss of things, but the loved ones safety is utmost. Were any friends or neighbors injured?

My thoughts are with you and your family.
I'm glad no one was seriously injured.
wow. mom nature is a bitch!
I understand their sadnees over the tree - that's not something you can rebuild. Sorry about the porch, too, lots of memories made there, I'm sure. Our first summer running our camp on Lake Michigan a huge storm came in during the night and a tree fell right on one of the cabins and crushed it. Luckily my husband is a Weather Channel addict and had all the campers in a safe spot well before it happened. Hope your parents are recovering from the scare!
That does blow. Thank God everyone is safe-- unhurt. You can rebuild structures, but memories?
Aw, your sweet folks mourning the tree after having such a close call. You come from such good midwestern stock! Glad they are OK.
You're right, Kerry. There are few things more frightening than the eerie green before the storm. It's hard to describe it to people who've never seen it, but once they've seen it, they'll never forget it.

I'm glad everyone is OK.
Yeah what Bill Beck said.
Oh, dear.

Much good luck to your family.
Wow, that is a scary close call. I am from earthquake country so I can't imagine going through this. I am glad your parents are otherwise okay. There was a really good article in Consumer Reports about dealing with insurance recently. It might come in handy.
Oh Kerry I feel for you. My parents have a cottage on a beach where I, my brother, and my son, took our first steps. It's survived countless hurricanes. Earlier this summer my parents rented it out, and someone left a burner and on a fire destroyed most of the interior. The rebuilding is mostly finished now. It looks nice, but it'll never be the same.

I guess this is life. A sharp reminder that nothing really survives. But it's lovely while it does.
I'm happy everyone is okay.

From hurricane alley (or thereabouts);

BBD wrote: "Were any friends or neighbors injured? "

Nope. Doesn't sound like there were any injuries at all. That's not saying that there isn't a world of hurt going on, but my family missed most of that.

It's funny, both my parents and brother said, "all the trees are gone." And yet, when you look at that photo (and another he sent me) there's still plenty of trees around. It's just *specific* trees that were meaningful or particularly lovely that matter the most. I guess the big ones on their property are gone, and a small woods in the back lot is mostly flattened. To a stranger, it's probably going to seem pretty woodsy. All in the perspective, I guess.

I'm particularly thrilled that an oak that grew from a sapling I brought home in first grade made the cut -- literally, losing it's top branches but otherwise surviving.
This does suck, Kerry! I'm so glad your parents are physically okay! I imagine they'll be shaken for a while.
I'm so glad you felt you could come to the OS community to share this, and I hope we could bring you some comfort, as well!
Rated for sharing
Rattled but fine - that is great news!
Very sorry for your parents loss and very glad they made it through safely.
No doubt, Stacey.
Kerry, Thank goodness everyone is ok...except for the trouble and expense.I am very sorry to see this happen to your family.....
The sheer randomness of tornado destruction never ceases to amaze me . . . and scare us all, periodically. As always - glad to hear there were no injuries.
I'm so sorry to read this. Living in hurricane country, I know what this does to your mind, not to mention heart and the structures. Te most important thing is that your parents are safe and unharmed.
WOW (from Kansas)
Glad everyone is safe. Tornadoes are really scary. We can't even say that word around our kids - it's a "T" in our household.
ditto what Bill Beck commented.
At least you get warnings. We're not so lucky out here in California. First the building house shakes, then the pool water overflows, then all your dishes break on the kitchen floor. And then you say, "Oh shit! It's an earthquake."

Tornado doesn't sound like much fun either. Glad everybody's okay.

Of all the natural disasters, I think tornados are the scariest, and per square foot, the most distructive. It is one thing to see pictures or film or the aftermath, but totally another to live through one, to have it touch your life. Thank God, they're safe
Glad to know that Toto, Dorothy, and everyone else made it through the storm OK...
Yikes. Glad all are okay. Amazing that they were sitting in the house. I'm sure that your/their home has a million memories and stories for you.
Minnesota? I have a healthy respect for tornado season, living in Wisconsin. Glad your parents are safe. It has to be an amazing thing for you to see that photo. On the other hand, in a Garp-ian way, they've now been de-disastered, so there's your silver lining.
Wow. Thank God your parents are all right and have most of their house. Tornadoes scare the shit out of me.
wow! You're right, that blows (ha!) but so glad your folks are OK.

People always ask me how I live in earthquake country. I always tell them it sounds better to me than living in tornado or hurricane country, because quakes are far less common, and not even as destructive much of the time. High winds scare the piss out of me.
Condolences on the damage. I'll join the others in being glad that no one was harmed otherwise!

Glad to know that the rest of the house is pretty much okay. This sort of trauma is hard for anyone, but when it happens to older people it can be really tough. Thank goodness no lives were lost because in the end that's what's really important, the rest is just "stuff."
Tornadoesd scare me worse than hurricanes but having grown up in the Rio Grande VAlley in Texa hurricanes were what we knew. I guess in the Midwest tornadoes is what one grows up with. So glad everyone was okay.
I understand the emotional connection to trees that have been planted and watched to grow.
In our area there is a company with a name similar to "Big Trees Today". A chunk of their biz comes from insurance claims. Perhaps an arborist can assess a value and point you to a company in their area with a tree 20 ft. or so in height that may be covered by insurance.
Good luck.
I'm in tornado alley and have been around when those dark ropes drop from the sky. It's incredible. So glad no one was hurt.
Glad they were not hurt. You had loads of animals through your life, that's for sure. All good thoughts.
Tornado sirens were going off when I was on my way home Wednesday afternoon. There were some that touched down in Minneapolis, but not in St Paul. Amazingly no one was hurt, and I'm glad your folks are okay.
my first night as a blogger-feels voyeuristic somehow. Peeking into peoples lives,opinions and thoughts. Then to open up to a family trauma such as yours and to be so far away. Not a neighborly act of kindness can I extend. Suddenly, I feel helpless... All I can do is offer kind words of support or maybe a prayer that friends&family are able to rally to your parents side and support them in there hour of need.
What a truly frightening experience. I hope your folks have calmed down. I can't imagine the sound and feel of a roof being torn off. Glad that they are physically alright. I'd still be shaking in my midwestern boots.
I grew up in Ohio and was a teen at the time a gigantic tornado took most of downtown Xenia away. I saw the town the next day and will never forget the surgically precise devastation - buildings half gone with rooms half still there - and everything left in the room in its place. Tiny objects still sitting on dressers. Pictures on the walls and furniture still in place. Sad and creepy and unbelievable. So glad that you and yours are unscathed.
A tornado tore up my hometown three years ago. No losses for my family, but it obliterated scores of houses and certainly drove home how fragile our entire existence is.
Wonderful poignancy, Kerry. I'm flashing back to those rogue twisters outside of the Twin Cities during, as I recall, during Katrina's second day. Apparently with all of our technilogical prowess we're still not assured of adequate warnings. Everyday 9/10.
You'd think that if we can easedrop on every conversation on earth that we'd get a siren with a least a money back guarantee.
Glad that mom and dad and neighbors and loved ones are doing fine.
Very shocking, Kerry. I´m glad your parents are OK, and I´m sorry about the tree they loved...
Kerry, you and your family have a lot of memories with your house! Sorry to read and see the damage and happy to hear that no family members were hurt when this happened. Even before climate change came along tornadoes have been a constant threat for many states and even here in the metro area we are seeing more and more damage from high winds--such as Central Park's severe multiple tree damage a few days ago,
Yikes. Glad everyone is ok, and I hope that it all can be rebuilt well.
The wrath of Mother Nature has such fury! Glad that no one was injured. Kerry, keep us posted.
Like so many others, I'm glad your parents are fine. It's wonderful your brother is near to help them too.
I've never felt that eerie creepy feeling or seen the green tint you speak of in face of such disaster, but I imagine it must be most frightning.
I've lived in tornado country (OK and now TX), earthquake country (Los Angeles) and hurricane alley (Corpus and Houston). Tornadoes are by far the scariest to me. Our kids are only 4 and 5 and they already know the difference in the sky between thunder storms and potential tornado activity. I will never forget the childhood tornado that touched down on the block behind my parents' house, skipped over our house and touched down across the street.

Glad your parents are safe. It must be hard for you to not be able to be there...
Ah yes, you described it so well:

"the unspeakably creepy, tell-tale green tint..."

Just reading that gave me the shivers.

Glad everyone is safe.
I am glad to hear your family is safe.
tornados suck. I grew up in Kansas. Saw roofs gone, a lot of them. What Bill Beck said.
So glad your parents are OK.

A couple of years ago I was driving home from work in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway about a mile from the exit. I could see the cloud and yes, the air was green. The radio was on, with the weatherman shouting, "If you are outside or in a car, find cover NOW." Lucky for the hundreds of us on the highway it passed a couple miles to the east and did minor damage. I was never so terrified in my life.
I have another tornado story . . .
We have a family picnic on Memorial Weekend Sunday, and it happens rain or shine. We had a rain party one year with about 100 people sitting under a lot of tents joined together. We always have live music and I was in the band playing Chris Issak's "Wicked Games." It got really dark and the rain just poured in buckets. The house is near Washington National Airport, and a plane flew overhead really, really low, passing slowly and loudly, drowning out the band. A friend came to the party a few hours later and asked if we had heard about the tornado that took out a tree a mile away. Turns out the tornado had passed directly overhead. There were no sirens, and since nobody was listening to the radio or watching TV, nobody knew there was a warning. We were so lucky!!
Very glad everyone is safe -- that looks like a close one!
thank god your folks are fine and everyone else too. houses can be rebuilt, trees planted again
I am happy that your family is ok, but it sucks for the house that you grew up in to be devastated like that!
My parents' home was trashed by Hurricane Wilma, so believe me I feel your pain. Glad no one was hurt. I hang on to what my mother said in the aftermath, "Things can be replaced, people can't."
Kerry, Isn't amazing how something inanimate like wood and metal etc can have a life of it's own and become a big part in your life? Something precious was damaged and that hurts. My sympathy with you and your family who this house has meant so much to.
I'm so sorry that this happened to your parents' home, Kerry. Thank goodness everyone is OK. If nothing else, it's a testament to your father's design / build expertise that the house held up as well as it did. Structural damage would make a bad situation even worse.
I'm so sorry, but I am so glad everyone is safe.
Kerry! So sorry to hear, and so glad everybody's ok. Whew!
The only tornado I actually lived through was the weirdest one ever; no green tinge. It came mid-morning, from the southeast, and was a wedge that hopped and skipped over 22 miles.
So sorry, Kerry. Very scary and traumatic. The photo makes it real. It will take time for your folks and their neighbors to recover. A friend lost her apartment in a lightning strike--random, freak act of nature. Reminds us of our lack of control, and to cherish what we do have. All best wishes.
I'm so glad that there were no injuries. I hope your parents can rebuild that back porch and keep the memories coming...
Holy crap. I hate these things. I can't believe I moved back into this area. I hate sitting in the hallway and thinking I might get killed.

I'm glad your family is okay. Whew.
O my... I cant imagine how frightening experience you have been. thank God everyone is ok
Been through a few earthquakes but nothing like this! So sorry about your family home but relieved to know all are safe and unharmed.
I am glad everyone is okay, but feeling sad for the loss of the homestead. I understand the loss of the tree too. Sending positive vibes out to the direction of your folks.
Eek! Glad everyone is okay though, tornados are scary things to go through!
glad everyone was ok! I think i'll take my earthquake country over tornado alley. scary!
and not only that creepy light...the birds are's like the earth is taking a huge deep breath and holding the atmospheric pressure changes sharply and then...

it's weird...

glad everyone's okay...:)
hey all am byan lebone so great getting to this group
This deserves an Editor's pick/Front page for sure.

This is so intellectual on so many different levels.
I am glad that they are fine, Kerry.
Glad your family had no injuries! My family went through the Super Outbreak of 1974 in Louisville, KY and there is nothing more frightening than a tornado swooping down and the devastation of everything in its path. Hope it all returns to normal soon!
glad everyone's okay. i remember trying to remember, with terror, which side was 'east' and 'west' of our wisconsin farmhouse basement as a child so i could always be properly prepared for those tornado warnings.
My sympathies – and, if it takes a tornado through one's parents' home to get this many readers to comment one one's blog, then by god I'll send a tornado through my parents' home, too.

– SawyerSpeaks
This looks a tornado hit it. I'm so sorry that this happened to your folks and their home. How wonderful that you are able to help them. Mother Nature has a real knack for bringing people together doesn't she?
I lived in the other tornado alley in the Dallas area. If nobody knows about that, it's because the Dallas Chamber of Commerce doesn't want anybody canceling a convention in May. There is nothing more terrifying than an approaching tornado. Whether your sitting in your bathtub, or crouched under a staircase, or huddled up in the basement, that is the single most heart-pounding thing anybody can live through.

I am glad your parents are safe. What a horrible thing to have to hear, your entire house being blown apart.

My daughter and I were in a car when Dallas's worst tornado and hailstorm hit. Hail as big as grapefruits, and I'm not kidding around, blew out the windows of our car. A man risked his own life and dragged us to safety. We sat in the back of a Domino's Pizza with the employees for over 2 hours watching it destroy everything.

And do you know, there was still idiots out there calling in pizza orders. Empathy, that's what it comes down to.
I'm sorry that had to happen to your childhood home. How sad, but I'm happy that no one was hurt. As a midwestern, I understand the tornado season. It can truly be scary!
I'm from Ohio and grew up with a sort of erotic fascination with tornados (I have, embarrassingly, a collection of tornado videos... a strange sort of porn for me). However, I never truly experienced one, and I am so glad, seeing the damage wrought on your parents home, that they got out safely. The strange, selective power of that funnel cloud is a horror and a wonder.
When I was young, a tornado hit close to our St. Louis County house--barely missing my brother's house. When the tornado warning came, my Mom would take us down in our dirt basement and burn palms (a Catholic thing). It was so scary but something I will never forget.
I remember hiding out in our basements in Windsor, Ontario and later in Montreal, Quebec as a child when the storms was frightening. We made the best of it...snuggling under blankets, reading by candlelight, counting the seconds between lightning and one-thousand, two one-thousand, and so on. I was always happy when I had fallen asleep and my dad would carry me back upstairs to bed, storm long gone. I remember one particularly bad storm when a tree came through the roof and landed in the a kid, I thought it was cool, not realizing the expense involved with clean up and repair. I'm glad your parents are well and the only damage was to property. Things can be replaced...people cannot.
i am sorry to hear that, luckily your folks are all ok,钱财乃身外之物。so nothing can more important than life, the lost you can gain again, but you cann't buy life and healthy. i don't know my vocaluble is so poor, before going to this website, i feel very satisfiation, but now, i don't understand why lots of words are stranger to me now.
Nature can sure diminish one's afternoon. I hope everything can be put to right in short order. So glad no one was hurt. Driving in SW Montana, on I-90, I just missed smacking into a moose the other night. I mean it was a close call. On the highway! Nature does what it wants, when it wants. We have to deal with it. Registering complaints is a waste of the energy we could be using to do things like build tornado shelters.

I am new to OS. Loving it. I can already tell it is comfortable, like my favorite night shirt. I am afraid I will spend too much time in both.
Wow, it's like being grazed by a bullet. Part of you thinks, "What the ????!" ...Then you put it perspective and realize how close it came and how lucky you are.
Thankfully everyone is ok. I hope this close encounter with nature's fury doesn't rattle them too much.
No Kerry. What blows is that so many OSers feel obligated to give you thumbs up on this story because you practically own the place...
So sad. I'm sorry for this disaster to your family home. I am very glad no one was hurt.
Since I grew up and still live in tornado alley, I am very skittish during storm season. Sending good thoughts your family's way.
I'm so sorry for your parents' loss, and yours. A natural disaster is more than the sum of its visible parts. Whether it tears off the roof or flattens the whole house, it rips away the sense of control that adults spend a lifetime nurturing.

It sucks.
I'm glad your parents were ok and had family in range to help.
This is scary since we just moved to an area subject to the occasional tornado and hurricane (Mississippi). Did they have a storm cellar?
My people (the Greeks) would say that it's clear sailing for your folks from now on. All the bad luck was wiped out by that deadly force of nature, and since no one (but that beautiful tree) was hurt, it's a sure sign that your family are good people and deserved to come out of it unscathed. They must plant a new tree right away. All my best.
The sirens went off for us Friday morning. We were pretty lucky - not much damage. Sorry you couldn't have experienced the same. Very glad you made it safely through.
I hate to say it, Kerry, but 'charming' is not the word I would have used to describe it, even before the storm. It may be that this particular 'act of God' did them a favor. BOKO.
Ver sorry for your troubles, but glad everyone is well. BOKo said that the house was not charming, but each to their own. It's subjective, in the eyes of the beholder, and you need something more than colored contact lenses to see the symbolism of the old tree being ripped from its roots, to appreciate what it means. It's not a vision that anyone would want to see.
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