At about 6:15 p.m. last Thursday I was sitting in the spare bathroom of my two-bedroom apartment with my little white cat and a backpack filled with crackers and cat food.
Hours before that I was joking with my coworkers listening to their tornado stories, never realizing that my very first tornado story was about to unfold.
It all started at about 3 p.m., when my coworker shared a severe weather alert he read on the Internet.
The wind picked up, the dark clouds darkened over our office in downtown Pawhuska and it started to sprinkle.
And then the text messages started pouring in.
My brother-in-law and sister, who live more than 500 miles away, started searching for shelters near me. My sister sent me text messages telling me to pack a bag of supplies and to be sure I had a case of water, while my coworkers and I took silly photos of what we’d look like if the storm was near.
I even joked about my sister’s overreaction to the storm on my Facebook page and posted this:
“(My) sister is totally freaking out about this tornado watch in my part of the state. She's looking up shelters near me, making me a list of supplies to pack and telling me to get a case of water. How am I supposed to carry supplies, a case of water, my cat, and everything to a shelter? By the time I load up the car I will be in Oz, chatting it up with the munchkins!”
My coworkers and I began to collectively keep track of the tornado warnings around us and then moments into it we got a call.
Burbank, a town about 20 miles from Pawhuska, had a tornado touch down and was headed our way.
I packed my things and headed out the door, camera in hand.
I was more confused than afraid. I remember looking behind me as I drove home thinking I’d see the tornado in my rearview mirror. I didn’t.
My journalistic nature wanted to see it, but my mother’s scolding voice in the back of my mind told me not to wish for such a thing.
When I got home the rain picked up, the clouds got darker and the thunder got louder.
I rushed inside, found my biggest backpack and frantically filled it with packaged food, water and other necessities.
I remember packing food for my cat and getting mad at myself for not stocking up on it, as she had no more than half a sandwich bag left.
Sadly I was more concerned about my cat’s safety than my own.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to do, what to pack or what to expect.
I turned the radio on loud and grabbed anything I thought I would need.
I sent a text to my mother letting her know I was OK, but being new to technology she didn’t check my message until the storm had passed.
As the storm grew the water started flooding into the parking lot and then, the hail came.
It was loud against the three sliding doors in the apartment and needless to say the noise is what scared me the most.
I started to panic, and so did my cat.
I threw my backpack in the bathtub, placed the cat carrier next to the tub and was ready to dive in at any moment.
For a second I thought about how ridiculous of an idea that was because the tornado would easily suck me out but it was the only advice I remembered.
I sat there on the rim of the tub, waiting for that sign, noise or just that something that was going to tell me it’s time to hit the tub.
Then it came, the weather forecaster said the tornado was only six miles out of Bartlesville.
I sent out a mass text to my family letting them know about the new developments, and all the replies started pouring in.
My 8-year-old nephew Kholte was getting updates from his mom, my sister, and the moment she told him the tornado got closer he had her text me saying, “Don’t forget your red slippers and Toto.”
My mother followed with the text, “Be careful :o(“
Then I updated my Facebook status again and my editor said this:
“…You'll get used to it. The odds are 100 to 1 of a tornado actually coming into the city (knock on wood). My entire 31 years I've only been in one and I was 13. I've seen 2 at a distance.”
After reading that I momentarily felt relieved until I realized that with my luck, the one out of hundred could have been that day.
And my sister who had been looking for shelters for over an hour texted, “OMG!”
Oh My Gosh was right!
As silly as it was I sat and wondered how I would know if the twister was headed my way.
When I came to my senses I realized that I was sure to know if anything came rip-roaring through the place.
After a good five to 10 minutes had passed the noise withered and as I peered out into the hallway the sun started to sneak out behind the clouds.
I didn’t remember the last time I had been that shaken up.
Before I left the bathroom I looked back at my backpack sitting in the tub, the cat carrier on the floor and found my cat sleeping on the cistern of the toilet.
When I saw how calm and bored she was I felt a blanket of embarrassment overcome me.
Days later, as I sat in the office sharing my stupidity with my coworkers my editor said something to me that stuck.
She said, “All the Oklahomans have to tell a tornado story.”
Although I was not born in Oklahoma I consider myself to now be an Oklahoman with my very own tornado story.