Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog

June 3, 2011

In the Wake of a Tornado

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karma @ 3:10 pm
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A tornado? It could never happen here! Afterall, we are in the valley of hills and mountains, not broad, flat Kansas.  That’s what most residents of western Massachusetts would have said to you before June 1, 2011, the day a destructive tornado ripped through this area.  It touched down in Westfield, MA sometime after 4pm and ripped a scary path east through West Springfield, Springfield, Wilbraham, Monson and Brimfield.  Those are the communities close to me that I know suffered serious damage.  My home, family, neighbors and friends were unharmed, and as far as I know, did not suffer any damage to their property.  We are the lucky ones and I am grateful to whoever or whatever it was who watched out for us.  I chose not to take pictures, or share others’ pictures of the destruction in this area.  If you are interested, just Google “Springfield MA tornado” and there will be plenty of sites for you to see.  I haven’t visited sites of destruction in person myself, so at this time it still feels a bit unreal.

My day on Wednesday started out like any other.  I went to work with the plan of leaving one hour early to pick Meghan up from school. It was the day of her boyfriend’s senior prom. A girlfriend of mine was going to do her hair.  We had heard about the possibility for strong thunderstorms that afternoon and hoped they would pass by in time for us to take pictures outside.  Around 3:45, the skies darkened and the temperature and the pressure in the air seemed to change.  At 4:00, Meghan was applying make-up and getting dressed for her big night. 

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At 4:15, a wicked thunderstorm with marble-sized hail started pelting this area.  Not to worry, I soothed, thunderstorms usually pass quickly! With a big umbrella over her head, held by my husband, we ran to the car to drive to her boyfriend’s house where the limo would deliver my daughter, her boyfriend and four other couples to their prom – in downtown Springfield.

We arrived at her boyfriend’s house and his dad had a huge golf umbrella for escorting the girls out of their cars.  The kids murmured with excitement about the night, exchanged corsages and boutonnieres, and hoped the rain would stop soon.  The skies cleared around 5pm so we headed outside to take pictures and wait for the limo to arrive.  Firetrucks, police cars and ambulances from our town and surrounding towns were racing down Main St.  We thought there must have been a terrible accident due to the viscious thunderstorm that had just passed.  The power was out in town so we hadn’t seen or heard what was happening around us.

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The limo driver arrived, about 25 minutes late, and explained that he had seen a tornado touch down in Westfield (about 35 minutes west of Wilbraham).  He didn’t have any other information, and neither did we, as the kids happily piled into their limo.

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And off we sent our children, in a limosine, to have their prom, in an area of the city that we had no idea had recently been struck by a tornado.   The building where the prom was held was the Mass Mutual Center, a sturdy, recently rebuilt public arena, which also ended up being one of the shelters in the area for people whose homes suffered damage from the storm.  But the prom went on.  Prom 2011 will surely be one these kids will remember for their whole lives.

When I arrived home, I still had no idea about the power of this storm or what actually had happened.  Our home phone service and power to our house was out and cell service was spotty.  We pieced together bits of information from the radio and text messages we received over the course of the night.  It was quite a long night, sitting in the dark, wondering how the kids were and worrying about them getting home.  Around 7pm, I watched as the sky turned a scary shade of yellowish-green and the winds and rains kicked up again.  I didn’t think to grab my camera at the time.  I’ve heard that episode was a microburst from the original tornado.

Luckily, the kids were returned safely after the prom, and we sat throughout the next day hearing more and more about the destruction that took place, but still without power.  I received text messages and the occasional phone call from family and friends checking on us and passing on information.  Last night our power came back on, and shortly after, cable and internet services were restored.  I know that many in the area are still without, and I am again thankful and feeling very lucky.  Booting up the computer this morning, I found emails from still more friends checking in on us.

If you were to come look around my yard, you would never know that a tornado screamed through this area maybe a mile away.  There are sticks around the yard,

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and flowers that look a little worse for wear,

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but that happens after virtually every rain storm.  My husband had been working on cleaning our pool, shortly before all this began, and the aluminum pole he was using remains exactly where he left it:

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For strange reasons, perhaps known only to me, it is the little things like this that make this reality so strangely unreal feeling for me.  But I know that it is, of course, very real for the thousands of people who suffered in one way or another.  We are tough New Englanders, and this area will get back on its feet.  Businesses of many kinds are offering their help, as well as the American Red Cross, and people are helping their neighbors.  To anyone from this area who was affected who may be reading this, please know that my thoughts are with you and I hope that your struggles are minimal, and that you have the love and support of family and good friends.

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28 Comments »

  1. Great post, beautiful pictures and I am also so grateful our family is okay.

    Comment by JenniferA — June 3, 2011 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  2. I’m so glad you and your family and friends are all okay. I’ve been wondering about you and wondered if you were anywhere near where the tornado touched down.

    Having been through a tornado, I know that unreal feeling you’re talking about. You told the story of your evening so well, I felt almost as if I were there.

    Comment by Robin — June 3, 2011 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

    • Thank you Robin, and thanks for the compliment on my writing.

      Comment by Karma — June 4, 2011 @ 8:22 am | Reply

  3. Ditto what Fer said! xoxo!

    Comment by renae — June 3, 2011 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

  4. Your daughter is gorgeous! You must have been so proud. :) Beautiful dress too. It really has been a crazy few days. Glad you are all well.

    Comment by Becky Sue — June 3, 2011 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Becky. There are more prom pictures on FB if you want to have a look.

      Comment by Karma — June 4, 2011 @ 8:23 am | Reply

  5. First…Meghan looks lovely for her prom! Very elegant!

    What struck me most about the photos is our naivety when it comes to the tornado warnings. We never think it will happen to us or that it could never be that bad since we don’t experience them. I am not sure if folks in Kansas would have casually sent their children off to prom with all that severe weather in the area! We have much to learn.

    I am SO GLAD you and your family are okay and that the kids had a wonderful time at prom. Yes, one they will never forget for sure.

    Comment by milkayphoto — June 3, 2011 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Tracy. Yes, I imagine we will think a bit differently around here the next time that a tornado warning is given.

      Comment by Karma — June 4, 2011 @ 8:24 am | Reply

  6. Oh, Karen. I am actually crying a little now. Thinking about how things like proms and tornados can intermingle. How one minute we can be having an ordinary life, and the next moment it’s all destruction and death. I am so glad that you are all safe. Your daughter is beautiful. Life is beautiful, even when it’s scary and horrific, too.

    Comment by Kathy — June 4, 2011 @ 9:39 am | Reply

    • We received a little reminder of just how precious life is. It is difficult for me when I think back about waving to my happy daughter as she got into a car headed for one of the hardest hit areas without anyone realizing what had happened. I’ve been counting my blessings an awful lot over the last few days.
      Thank you Kathy.

      Comment by Karma — June 4, 2011 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

      • I’ll bet you have. Still tearing up when I think about this. (posted a link to this blog on my Facebook yesterday, Karen.)

        Comment by Kathy — June 5, 2011 @ 8:46 am

  7. I heard about that prom on the national news…the fact there were people being sheltered on one floor and a prom on a floor above. Amazing. Glad everyone you know is OK

    Comment by Dawn — June 4, 2011 @ 11:10 am | Reply

    • Wow, didn’t know our little town’s prom made the national news – it certainly was an extraordinary circumstance.
      Thanks Dawn.

      Comment by Karma — June 4, 2011 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  8. I was SO GLAD to hear from you, I was really getting worried! I’m so glad you are all OK!
    We had tornado sirens go off here in town several times since we moved here, and it’s so hard to keep it together for the kids when you’re scared to death! We have no safe place to go, no central closet, not even the bathtub since it’s right along an outside wall. Just one more reason I want to get out of TX (and tornado alley!).

    Meghan looks beautiful, btw.

    Comment by thedailyclick — June 4, 2011 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

    • The idea of homes built without basements is such a strange concept to me, if for no other reason than for safety. Do you have any idea why some homes are built that way?
      I thought of my WordPress/FB friend who might be worrying, and wished there was some way I could’ve gotten a little info out. Even hubby’s iPhone service was spotty at the time.
      Thank you Michaela.

      Comment by Karma — June 4, 2011 @ 8:15 pm | Reply

  9. Meghan looks so lovely and bright eyed!

    I’m relieved that your family was unscathed by the tornadoes. Tim & I were sitting glued to the TV all that evening, horrified by the unbelievable destruction we were seeing. We were under a tornado watch here so we were not taking any chances, especially after my frightening experience with a tornado warning and thunderstorm with “rotation” last summer. The Springfield tornado was the lead story on ABC Evening News that night, and after that news program was over we switched to NECN and continued following closely the progress of the storms. What a night!

    When I was a little girl we used to go visit my great-uncle and great-aunt in Monson. I wonder how their old house fared. The town looked totally devastated on TV. Aunt Marge died in 2004 – in a way I’m glad they both died before this happened to their town…

    I have a feeling we can expect more unusual weather patterns as a result of climate change. Again, I’m so happy you’re all right!

    Comment by Barbara — June 5, 2011 @ 4:44 pm | Reply

    • Thanks very much Barbara. I haven’t been into Monson yet myself, but I’ve seen the pictures and a dear friend lives there. She showed me her own video of the side streets off Main St. and the destruction is unreal. I suppose your aunt and uncle’s former house’s condition depends entirely on what street it was on.

      Comment by Karma — June 5, 2011 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

      • You must be very relieved that your friend is all right. Was her home damaged? I’ve tried looking at a map of Monson, Gates St. rings a bell. It was one of those streets off to the east of Route 32, which I guess is Main St. Maybe I can find their old address up at my dad’s in my mom’s old address book. Don’t want to drive up there just to gawk, but I am naturally curious…

        Meghan will have quite a story to tell her children some day about her prom night!

        Comment by Barbara — June 5, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

      • Yes, very relieved. Her house (Wales Rd.) was untouched. The way the tornado touched down is difficult to fathom; it is like it skipped and jumped and touched randomly rather than tearing a straight path. I’m wondering how long it will be before we stop talking about the tornado here – I imagine it will be quite a while.

        Comment by Karma — June 8, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

  10. [...] last time around, but I didn’t forget about the Photo Scavenger Hunt.  As you may recall, things have been a bit chaotic in this part of the world, but I needed to turn my thoughts to something other than the tornado that recently ripped through [...]

    Pingback by June Photo Hunt « Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog — June 5, 2011 @ 8:15 pm | Reply

  11. First let me say I am so proud of my beautiful granddaughter! She looks so lovely and happy.
    I love your post….such great writing. That was a very scary night. Being unable to reach my family was terrible. The destruction is really shocking for our little part of the world. Oh, and the photography is beautiful too!

    Comment by Trish Dinsmore — June 7, 2011 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

  12. [...] getting worked up in knots Thursday evening.  The weather in this area was strongly reminiscent of last Wednesday. The power went out again, but thankfully it was only strong thunderstorms this time around.  [...]

    Pingback by Hi! I’m Still Here! « Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog — June 11, 2011 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  13. [...] help with a children’s art project.  It was the first time I had seen my hairdresser since the tornado on June 1st, so we were chatting about where we were and what happened.  Sadly her house sustained some [...]

    Pingback by Stuck in a Whirlwind « Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog — July 28, 2011 @ 9:54 am | Reply

  14. [...] get mine posted today while I still have power!  What a summer it has been around here: first a tornado, then a microburst, an earthquake on Wednesday (though I did not feel it), and now Hurricane Irene [...]

    Pingback by Rainbow of Summer… in Maine « Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog — August 26, 2011 @ 10:03 am | Reply

  15. [...] in July. Early reports are saying the damage to this area is more severe and more widespread than June’s devastating tornado . Please send good thoughts toward Massachusetts and other parts of the northeast affected by this [...]

    Pingback by I’m Back! « Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog — November 3, 2011 @ 8:44 pm | Reply


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