Too close for comfort

Monday, August 24, 2009

We had a busy week last week. Although, we always seem to have busy weeks lately.  Monday was Oliver’s soccer, Tuesday I had belly dancing, Wednesday Mark was flying his plane, and then Thursday came along.  Thursday was school bus training for Oliver.  Because he’s going to be getting to kindergarten via a bus from daycare.  Yes, a little tiny boy (even though he thinks he’s a big boy) on a big giant school bus.  Therefore, school bus training was in order.  Thought it might be a good idea to knock some safety awareness into him.

So I left work at normal time, 5pm, got on the highway, and then promptly slooooooooowed right down because the rain started. Only it was more like a monsoon than rain and the highway was instantly flooding and I could barely see anything and I could have stopped but I thought, naw, gotta pick these kids up and I’ll keep going, just rather very very slowly. So I did. I stayed behind a large truck with bright rear lights and just followed it until my exit. Which thankfully is quick. As I exited the highway, the rain cleared.  And I thought, oh maybe that it’s for the stormy weather they’ve been predicting.

I picked the kids up, complaining to daycare staff of the rain, and brought them home.  Mark met us at home, and we all piled into the car around 6:10.  We were headed to Maple High School, the nearest school offering the bus training, about a 10 minute drive away.  Very close to Canada’s Wonderland.

As we drove down, the rain picked up again, forcing us to slow the car.  I wasn’t really enjoying the weather.  The torrents stopped, and we could see out the windows clearly again as we approached our destination. Except as we got to Jane and Major Mack, Mark pointed out something we don’t normally see out the window.  The remains of a funnel cloud.  Which, now, I think, from all the reporting, was probably the touch-down associated with the damage caused to homes at Hwy 7 and Martin Grove.  I freaked out.  I did the sensible thing and tweeted.  (Ha.)

But we kept going, we were almost there.  And hey, there was nothing on the radio, nothing out of the ordinary on the news before we left.  And I’ve seen weird clouds before, that was just a fluke right?  There was already a lot of police speeding around at that time.  I think we saw them before the tornado, though, so we assumed it was an accident on the 400.

We got to the school.  Oliver and I ran in, got totally soaked in the process as the rain started again.  And school bus training was not cancelled.  So I tried to get Mark and Callum to come in.  Which seemed to take a long time because apparently to Mark a hand saying ‘come hither’ means ‘move the car’ or something in his language.

Eventually they came in.  Thankfully my kids think it’s funny when they get soaked in the rain.

We sat in the school gym and waited for the presentation/training to start.  Which it did, 3 times, as the power kept going out.  We sat facing a wall of glass windows.  And as the kids watched Bertie the Bus or whatever the hell horrible video it was (including a jungle trip, ’cause that makes a LOT of sense), we watched out the window and I read my twitter feed, seeing stories about touch downs in Guelph.  And downtown Toronto.  But nothing about where we were.  We did, however, watch the sky go completely black, the trees go sideways, and the wind and rain pelt the windows like nothing we’d seen before.  But then it sort of cleared.

As we were leaving I heard a woman mumble something, and I said, yeah I read on my phone there’s been loads of tornadoes sighted, like in downtown Toronto.  And she was like – my husband was at a ball park around here that got hit.  Oh.

All the kids and parents finally piled on to an actual bus, which is what Oliver had been waiting for, but they wouldn’t drive it around due to the weather.  They also said they wouldn’t talk about what was going on because they didn’t want to scare the kids.  So while the rest of Maple and Vaughan was in their basements, we didn’t even know.  I suppose there are worse places to be than school gymnasiums, right?  Right?

We didn’t know.

Training was done.  We got in the car.  Most of the storm seemed to have passed.  Maybe all of it? I don’t really remember.  It was around 7:30pm.  We had promised to get them McDonalds’ after the bus training – so we headed up Jane to the one at Major Mack.  There was a lot of traffic so we took a back way.  We got there and realized the power was out in the entire strip mall behind it, and the building itself.  (I heard something later that it had been used as shelter for motorists getting off the highway.)

We went back to the other side of the street, arguing over what fast food to get, thinking that our power was probably out too so we’d better buy something.  We settled on pizza.  We sat in the parking lot and watched a huge double rainbow appear.  And listened to siren after siren head north on Jane.  In the direction of our home.

We drove up Jane, finally, after a long wait for the pizza, because that’s what people do when they don’t have power, they pick up their dinner.  We drove and realized we were driving towards many, many flashing lights.  But, a tiny voice said – at least they’re HERE and not at our house. Or hopefully.  Anyway, not very compassionate, but what can you do.

And so we finally got to where all the flashing lights were and my mouth gaped open at the damage before us.  The wrought iron gates that line the road, flattened.   So many trees down.  Various homes missing shingles.  And oh that one should have a roof on it.  And then, the one that got me, the one where I actually burst into tears because I thought that people MUST have been hurt, the house missing the entire top story.  It must have taken a direct hit.

How did no one in the devastation so close to my house get hurt?

Oh, and we came home, and it had been garbage collection day, and none of the recycling boxes on our street had even moved.   10 minutes south, recycling boxes were exploding in mid air.  The only hint that anything was out of the ordinary was that the power had been out but had returned, and our cable/internet/phone connection was down until some time in the middle of the night a few hours later.

I look at the sky now, when the clouds roll in, and I’m afraid.  I was trying to teach Oliver and Callum not to be afraid of thunder and lightening (well, except for the healthy fear that tells you to get out of the field and into shelter) because I’ve always liked a good storm.  But now I see a dark patch, some far off rain fall, and now I wonder if it’s coming again.

And every time I have to go into Maple now, for errands, for groceries, for trips to Vaughan Mills, I’ll be driving by that neighbourhood, past that house, and thinking about it all over again.

I suppose now we’ll worry more, but perhaps be more prepared?

(I didn’t take any of my own photos.  I don’t need to keep the memories.  They are graphic enough – I didn’t even really sleep Thursday night.  The links are for reference only).

2 Responses to “Too close for comfort”

  1. mancais Says:

    Wow. I love storms but that sounds awful to drive through and see the damage.

  2. Hey you & I are neighbours! What a storm that was!! My friend’s parents house was pretty roughed up by it. Those youtube videos are incredible.

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