When people find out that I am from Kansas they usually have one of two reactions. The first, “Your basketball team totally screwed up my bracket this year!” You and me both, son. Luckily March Madness is now a forbidden topic of conversation in KC and in one more day we can really move past the whole mayhem and start talking trash in anticipation of next year’s domination. The second reaction is usually something along the lines of, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!” The Wizard of Oz references abound.
I quickly try to dispel any notions that I have survived tornados, drove a tractor to school or grew up on a farm raising cows, pigs and chickens (though I did try unsuccessfully to tip a cow once). In reality, I had a very standard suburban childhood, sometimes even more urbanized than my friends that grew up in upstate New York or parts of Pennsylvania, which I appropriately call the boonies, as they grew up with farm animals and fields next door. And though I have never witnessed a tornado, I forgot the intensity of Midwest thunderstorms. I’m not sure if it is because you are more in the elements of these storms, versus a high-rise building, but I have yet to see the fury of a Midwest storm on the East Coast.
Friday morning I awoke early to see a couple of my friends for breakfast before they went into work and as I returned home some dark clouds had gathered with more rolling in by the minute. My parents left a note saying they went out for a walk, all pretty standard. By this point some mild sprinkling commenced outside but I thought, “Eh, they’ll be fine” and I went downstairs to run on our treadmill. I was sufficiently zoned out watching Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (nerd alert) when the room went black and I found my torso wrapped around the treadmill’s control panel. I think I was 12 the last time we had a power outage. I thought society was technologically advanced past these things so it took me a minute to actually register that a power outage was, in fact, occurring.
Finally, I looked out the window to see a blackish mess of clouds and trees arced over with their branches kissing the ground. Now this was a thunderstorm! Finally it hit me: My parents were still outside. I grabbed some towels and a set of car keys and ran into the garage only to discover the garage door operates from electric power. Duh. So I sat by the control button waiting for the power to flicker so that I could hit the button and raise the door in increments. (All efforts to manually raise the door pathetically failed.) After a few minutes of this inefficient button game, I saw two figures hurriedly advancing down the sidewalk. My parents crawled into safety through the two-foot opening I managed with the garage door.
A few hours later we ventured outside for lunch to find telephone and light poles crumpled and demolished on the sidewalks. The Missouri-side of town still didn’t have power, forcing us to relocate our delicious Mexican meal to another neighborhood. I’m convinced the storm must have actually been a microburst or something fancy to cause such damage.
I started envisioning recounting this story to friends and coworkers once I returned to New York and the Gawd, that is soooo Kansas, Dorothy! comments that would inevitably ensue. I think this storm would fall under the Getting KC’d category and should, in theory, give me some more street cred for surviving a microburst (it’s close to a tornado, right?!). And, in true KC fashion, by evening it was 75 degrees, sunny, and the sidewalks were overflowing with skirt and short-clad locals enjoying the First Fridays art exhibits. Definitely KC’d.