Posts Tagged ‘tornado’

What Do You Take?

Posted: May 28, 2011 in Weather
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I ran into an old friend of mine today. She was standing in the entryway of her new home, arms thrown open as if in greeting, the chatter of others echoing from the rooms around her.  She looked shocked to see me and when I walked forward and she gave me a hug, she said, “How did you know we were in trouble?” “I’m intuitive that way,” I said. “Thought you could use some help.”

The “trouble” is the rising Missouri River, which is steadily overflowing its banks, driven by the increasing flows from the Oahe Dam which officials say are necessary because of the heavy snowmelts and record rainfalls coming from areas beyond our state’s borders. Shit may roll downhill but water doesn’t, at least not this water. It hurtles, rages, heaves as it comes out of the tubes at the stilling basin then weaves itself into the river and snakes its way downstream. Now it colors outside the lines, creeping over the edges of the land that normally holds it in check, flowing across lawns, pooling in parking lots, washing away roads. That’s what’s happening in Amy’s neighborhood and that’s why I’m there.

Her shock at seeing me was genuine; we haven’t talked to each other, in person, in a couple of years. Not that we’re fighting or anything (not that I’m aware of anyway); more just busy. You know how that goes. Jobs, family, commitments. Sometimes friendships fade over time, even if you don’t intend for them to. But we’re Facebook friends and when I saw her recent posts about sand-bagging her home, her new home that took years to materialize, I figured it was time for a reunion.

Amy quickly filled me in. They’d gotten the word this morning that the road to their housing development would likely be underwater and impassable by this evening. That meant not only did they have to reinforce the sandbags and quickly construct a berm but they had to get out – now – while there was still a road to get out on.

While I joined Amy’s family and friends in packing, hauling and tossing their possessions, it struck me that there are so many things you can live without that you never thought you could. When push comes to shove and you have hours to decide what has to go in the horse trailer and what can ride out the flood on an upper floor, what do you take?

Family pictures, furniture with history, the kids favorite toys, all find spots in the trailer. A desk too heavy to move, a pantry brimming with canned goods, decorative things that can be replaced, all will ride out the flood in the house. I watched Amy make a multitude of snap decisions today, choices I knew she never thought she’d have to make but when the water’s lapping at the back door and you’re looking out over the sandbag hill in your front yard at a neighborhood hurriedly working to save itself, you make ’em.

The residents and businesses in our area who are being impacted by the floodwaters have been preparing for days but it will be months before it’s all over and who knows how it will turn out? We’re fortunate in a way because we’ve had some advance warning, even if the information we’re getting is constantly changing. I think about the residents in Joplin and other communities devastated by tornados and I wonder: in times like that, when your choices are made in seconds or minutes instead of hours, what do you take? Yourself. Your family. Your faith that you’ll make it through this alive. And your hope that things will get better, however long that takes. If you leave with those things, you’ve got a fighting chance.