Above the village, we watch; frightened, awe struck.
Wind slams trees, they bend, flip back, branches tossed; down, up, whirling, spinning in a furious dance. The house shudders, settles. Rain pelts, the din furious on the metal roof. A single drop, drop, drop from water gathered on the chimney cover is counterpoint to the assault. Rivers of water flow down the hill. Crash, crash, hail, golf ball size, adds a base note.
Clouds gather, gray, black, moving faster. One emerges, whirling round, round. What? A tail? No, a funnel! Moving furiously from the ocean east over our village.
Cell phone buzzes: texts come in. What’s happening? You OK? Online, posts of the cloud/tornado as it comes. Horror, relentless, on unsuspecting souls who expected the morning topic to be what’s for breakfast. Posts reveal devastation, furor of damage. Business gone, roof off and walls none better. Trees up-rooted, huge, lie atop the ground. Buildings missing half their walls and/or roofs. Power poles tilt precariously. Good news! No injuries, no lives lost.
The lights flicker, power’s lost. Computer on battery; I monitor. Posts show the path of the storm. A tree falls between two houses, missing both. Damage hits one structure, and misses its neighbor. A block of trees snapped at mid-level, broken sentinels, standing guard. The next block untouched. How capricious it all is. Is there no order in this monster? I think what if? The tornado might have come further north and hit us. We would be gone, or that could be us with the roof off or trees down. Is it right to feel relief, hearing and seeing what I see posted?
Volunteers and emergency crews share stories and experiences. A resident above a business awakes. Across the street, a roof lifts off, and the monster continues straight at her. Helpless, she watches the tornado speed towards her. It turns abruptly, heads away. Another resident watches as the roof of building across the street lifts up, like a kite and turns, floating. It hangs there as the contents of the building under it blow out, then descend back down.
Reports note the outpouring of manpower, assistance. Disaster training kicks in. Emergency Relief Volunteers set up command posts. Citizens rush in with chainsaws and trucks. Utility employees work around the clock to restore power. A center is set for anyone displaced. All within the first hours. One news source posited there is no better place for the tornado to land, since Manzanita is on top of planning for the “big one.”
News reporters descend, looking for stories. A few obnoxious ones, determined to get the best shots and stories, shove mics in grieving owners faces. Others are respectful. People pull together. The mayor declares a state of emergency, almost as an afterthought, the devastation so obvious. The grocery store offers free coffee and food to workers and anyone without a place to go.
Storm is passed, it’s quiet, sun shines. I step outside: pleasant, calm, warm. Where I am, on this ridge, it’s like any other day; no sign of trees down, no buildings torn apart. I walk down the block, thinking I could walk downtown and see what it looks like. No, I’d get in the way. I meet John, on his way to check on a friend’s house. He fills me in on the damage. An original Manzanita house is gone. He isn’t sure if it’s inhabited or not. It starts to get chilly, and I turn for home.
What’s left? Go to bed? Then “Hallelujah! The lights come on!” The dishwasher resumes, clocks flash, the house is bright. And the coffee pot works. Enjoying a cup has never felt so good. I listen, comforted by the sounds of the fridge, dishwasher. Even the obnoxious printer sound is wonderful as it whirrs, clicks and clacks. I am safe, home in one piece. I can sleep in my own bed. Not so, for how many? Tomorrow, I’ll see what I can do, and I say a prayer for those who were in the monster’s path.
by Kay Stoltz