M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, July 13, 2005  

Blow, Winds, Blow!

I’m kind of pissed that I’ve lived in the Midwest my whole life and have never seen a tornado except on TV. And in the theater, when I saw Twister, but that movie wasn’t exactly all about the realism. That became clear long before Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt chained themselves to a pipe to ride out an F5, and then their lower bodies rose gently and beatifically into the howling vortex instead of flapping madly like baseball cards stuck in the spokes of a bicycle traveling at 800 miles per hour.

My dad had two tornado sightings in one summer once when I was a teenager, and ever since then I’ve been thinking that he got at least one that should have been rightfully mine. He was fishing at the time, though, so I don’t think it would have been worth it to me.

And my uncle once told us about the time he was caught in one while out jogging. He found a low spot in the ground and holed up there while it passed directly over him. And according to him, from that perspective a tornado looks like neither a funnel nor a cloud. It really just looks like every kiddie pool, garden gnome, and piece of lawn furniture in the neighborhood circling in the air directly above you. I don’t need to get that close. Again, not worth it.

I did have some hopes of seeing a tornado a couple of weeks ago . I was working away in my 24th floor office downtown when I became dimly aware that things outside were getting a little dim. I don’t have a direct view of a window from where I sit without turning around or standing up, but the fact that less ambient light than usual seemed to be coming from outside drew my attention. That and the fact that I was overhearing some of my coworkers talking about the weather maps they were looking at online. I turned around in my chair and looked at the slice of sky I could see from there, which was an overcast gray. Then I pulled up one of those weather maps on the Internet and had a look. And indeed, an angry red storm front was bearing down on us from the west. The map showed it just outside the outer-ring suburbs. I went beck to work.

And then it got darker, so I walked to the window. When I did that, the sky directly above was still gray. But it was abundantly obvious that that storm front was no longer over the western suburbs. Looking out from the 24th floor, it was maybe a mile to my right. This was the biggest, blackest cloud I’ve ever seen in my life. It was like one of the spaceships in Independence Day closing in on us, except it was bigger, more substantial, and just about at eye level.

A few minutes later it clamped down over the downtown area like the lid of a Weber grill. Street lights came on below us, and we could see the lights in neighboring buildings better than we could see the buildings themselves. And that was only if you got really close to the window, because the reflection of the inside of our office washed out the view otherwise. And on the west side of the building, that reflection was wobbling madly. The wind was hitting the glass so hard that it was bowing in and out like a sheet of aluminum.

It reminded me of one day at my very first office job when I was right out of high school. I and everyone else who worked in our seventeenth-floor office gathered at the west-facing window and watched a storm approach. It was nowhere near as bad as the one a few weeks ago, but it was bad enough that people were saying, "I want to see a funnel cloud. I don't want anyone to get hurt, I just want to see a funnel cloud." Compared to the black mass that was hanging over us a couple of weeks ago, that day was perfect softball weather. We looked out from my current office, and we knew that when we got hit, we'd get hit hard.

And we did. It was like our entire building had been dunked into a brackish green fish tank. All we could see was the rain. One of my coworkers asked if we should go home. "You want to try and drive in this?" I asked.

The deluge didn't last all that long, and obviously the building didn't collapse, but just as it was ending, we felt the whole floor give a barely perceptible downward twitch. At least the windows had stopped bowing.

Normally I dig storms. But what I didn't like about this one was that I was at my job, Trash was at hers, and M. Tiny was at day care. I didn't like the idea of my family being scattered all over the city in the event of some disaster. So I didn't like that aspect of the storm.

I also didn't like the fact that I still didn't get to see a tornado.

Today's best search phrase: "Skankwear catalogs." You have to respect a woman who knows what she's looking for, and keeps looking for it anyway.

posted by M. Giant 8:43 PM 2 comments


I live and work in Minneapolis too, but I was in Northeast. I too noticed that storm when the sky pretty much turned black. It's always interesting too see all my cooworkers gather around the windows and comment on what a bad idea it is to stand near windows in gale force winds. I didn't get to watch for too long because water started to bubble in between the upper and lower part of the windows! I don't want that to happen again.

By Blogger Greg, at July 14, 2005 at 6:01 AM  

I spent my first eight years in Wisconsin and I'll never forget playing outside when there was a tornado heading our way. I realized I could play catch with wind. I tossed the ball against the wind and it came right back to me. I was thrilled. My Virginia-born mother was considerably less enthralled and came shrieking out of the house to get my butt in the basement NOW as we both looked up to see a funnel about a half-mile from the house. Scared the hell outta me.

By Blogger Caro, at July 14, 2005 at 8:23 AM  

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