To hail with it

To hail with it

I’ll say one thing for those (ancient) Egyptians. They must have had pretty tough windshields on their cars.

Last week in Indianapolis, my family bore witness to a plague — one of the original 10. Four-inch hailstones plummeted from the evening sky (following a hot, humid, and sunny day), breaking car windows, shattering storefronts, and dislodging gutters from the sides of houses. And that was just the beginning.

Did the exodus story say anything about tornados? It should have. From the moment my grand-dog Edy cowered under a chair — truth be told, she’s always been a bit of a wimp, but this was ridiculous — we should have suspected that something was afoot.

Like all good Hoosiers (though my children adamantly refuse that label, vowing to teach their 4-month-old daughter to say New York and New Jersey even before she utters eema or abba), we rushed to the television and turned on the weather channel.

"Omigod, this is terrible," said the weatherman reassuringly. Then (a tad too happily for my taste) he demonstrated to viewers that the "super cell" confluence of storms dotting the TV screen with red, pink, and black blobs was likely to cause "rotation" (think tornados) sometime soon and someplace close.

"Wow, black areas," said my son. "I’ve never seen black. This must be some storm." He was also far too happy.

I have faced down muggers and, worse, surly bus drivers, but I have a native New Yorker’s fear of weather and began, not so casually, to inquire about safe places to stand when the wind hit the proverbial fan.

Storms are not theoretical constructs. (The next day’s paper showed scenes of terrible damage in those areas where the tornardo actually did touch down — fortunately, not in our backyard, though pretty close.) All I wanted was for one of my kids to acknowledge that this was not just good TV but something we needed to prepare for.

"Don’t worry, there’ll be a siren," said my tornado-savvy child. Then, when the siren actually sounded, he said, "Don’t worry, that’s only a warning."

I was worried. Actually, I was pretty darn worried. I walked downstairs to case the best place to stand with the baby when the "real" alarm sounded. I also wondered what that would sound like. Probably something like "OK, this time we mean it."

According to the map, we were in danger of being hit by several storms, one after the other, or worse, by two at once as the super cells collided. They didn’t, though it was a close call.

The worst did not happen, though the hailstorm and its aftermath did interrupt our dinner. But the adrenaline rush was more than enough for my city sensibilities. I began to wonder how people in the Midwest get through tornado season, year after year. What happens if you’re in the car, or out in the street? What if your TV is broken and you can’t track the path of these monsters?

I can’t think of any good answers, so I think I’ll stay in New Jersey.

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