Sunday, April 08, 2012

[Dexter] It's a Twister

It's a Twister!: Having lived in Michigan for over half a century, tornado warnings barely register. They come along all the time and the net result is usually a thunderstorm and maybe a brief power outage. I've never actually seen a tornado. In fact, I used to argue that there was no such thing, that they were really a combination of government conspiracy and special effects. So when they pulled us all off the floor of the health club and made us wait in a more protected area until the warning passed, I thought it was all a bunch of nervous nellying and made for my car.

Do you remember Jiffy Pop? The little foil tins with built in handles that you would shake over the stove until it blossomed into buttery popcorn goodness? Remember the machine gun sound it used to make when the popping it reached its peak? That's what the hail sounded like on my car.

I crawled toward Dexter and noted where the lights were out. Traffic was backed up beyond belief. Sirens were going off. It was almost dark and I was able to see some big trees uprooted, but again, I just assumed there was some minor damage and the power would be out for a while, but it quickly became clear that traffic was not moving at all. So I turned around and headed for work where there is an industrial strength generator and a dedicated T3 line so that we may never be disconnected from the internet.

The tornado had touched down at Hudson Mills -- a Metropark where I very often run, about two miles from my house. It followed a main artery (Dexter-Pinckney road) which would spend the next week closed off while debris was cleared, took a sharp left to follow along some railroad tracks, demolishing several small building, ripped right past my old condo -- my tenant figures it was 50 yards away at most -- and proceeded to barrel through the neighborhood next door, where I have many friends and colleagues, destroying multiple houses entirely and making many more uninhabitable. Wow.

I drove about 12 miles out of my way and circled home through unobstructed streets to verify that a) there was no damage to my house (there wasn't) and b) the power was in fact off (it was). Having done that, I bolted for nearby hotel for the next couple of nights. I have done the whole rough-it-when-the-power-is-out numerous times in my life and I feel no compelling need to do it again, so yeah, when everyone else was struggling, I crashed at Weber's and got some pool time in. Sue me.

The next day the results were in. Check out some photos. Amazingly not only did nobody die, there was not a single injury. The worst hit neighborhood was called Huron Farms, the adjacent neighborhood to where my old condo is. So many homes had blue tarps covering the roofs that people started calling it tarp-city. There were state troopers stationed at both entrances making sure nobody could enter the neighborhood that didn't have a good reason, such as looters or gawkers, but it also served to keep the traffic down because so many vehicles and service trucks were on the job already that you could barely get around. As the current slumlord of my old condo, I got in. Luckily my building only suffered some lost siding.

But looking around I saw nobody crying or complaining. Folks were smiling, passing information along about where to get supplies and who heard what about when the power was coming back. The local Busch's grocery store came through big with free bottled water and offer to store perishable food in their freezers. Chainsaws were going. Truck beds were being filled. Kids were out running around and playing, probably debating whether losing their roof was worth it for the days off school. Various groups started funds and drives and such. Major insurers parked trailers nearby to handle claims. The local congressman toured the scene, but I don't think anybody cared all that much.

I'm not one to be terribly sentimental, but I have to say my little town did an admirable job. Almost as soon as the tornado passed, folks were picking up the pieces without any angst. There was no disorder or insecurity whatsoever. I'd be willing to bet that before the year is out the great tornado of 2012 will be little more than a good tale to tell.

Personally, I suppose I may have to admit that something more than special effects was at work.