When we went to bed last night there was quite a thunderstorm raging. We have noticed that storms here tend to be more intense and last longer than back East. The lightning seems brighter too, or maybe it’s just that you can see more of the sky and therefore more lightning. It’s pretty amazing to see very dramatic bolts flashing on the horizon from the sky all the way down to the earth.
It had been a warm humid day and Olivia and my sister Marianne and I went kayaking on Lake Monona, at times paddling against significant wind gusts. At home after dinner we played a fierce game of Monopoly (I won) while Mark finished up some work before a short trip he has this week. It started to rain and the breeze accompanying the storm was refreshing coming through our windows. We all went to bed not at all concerned. Just before midnight we heard sirens, prompting Mark and I to get up. We determined that they were fire trucks since the sound waned shortly, so we went back to bed. Fifteen minutes later we heard them again and this time it was definitely the tornado siren. We got everyone out of bed and down to the basement. When we grabbed our phones we noticed an emergency alert “Tornado Warning” for our area. A quick check of the news showed that conditions were ripe for a tornado forming in our area, just south of Madison. That soon changed to include Madison as well and we got a text from Rose at the UW Summer Music Camp saying she was in the basement of the dorm. I’m sure she and the other middle schoolers were quite scared although I guess seasoned Wisconsinites are used to this. I think we were more anxious than scared, wondering what would happen next. We soon lost power but were still able to get news reports on our phones. Mark popped upstairs a few times to see how it looked outside, figuring he would have time to run back down if necessary. (He must get that storm gene from his father who used to use a long metal-handled pole to clean the leaves from the pool during thunderstorms in Arizona!) About 30 minutes after the sirens started we got word that everything had passed. We ambled back to bed and checked on Rose who said she was “shaken” but fine. We settled into sleep and the power came back on a few hours later, causing no hardship at all.
This morning when we got up there was another text on the phone saying a tornado had damaged one of the elementary schools in Verona and about a dozen houses. That neighborhood is a few blocks away from us! It was very localized, carving a very narrow path of destruction. There were no serious injuries and considering the intensity (it was labeled an EF3 meaning winds were 135 – 165 mph) that is pretty amazing. It turns out that two twisters collided and touched down. We got on our bikes to check out the scene and it was something else. We saw a trampoline upside down on the curb, patio furniture in pieces and siding torn off of houses. Right next door to the damage though there were back yards without a chair even overturned. Very strange. Here is the school:
and a house that collapsed:
We only had small twigs scattered around the yard, but everything else was in place. We took the warning seriously and after seeing firsthand what a tornado can do we will certainly do the same in the future!