The morning of August 23 this year in metro Chicago was clear and warm, and then a little hot as the day worn on, with puffy clouds in the sky. I was at my desk most of the morning, doing things that needed to be done, but I did stand outside for a few moments, thinking about whether the late afternoon might be a good time to mow the back yard, which has been unattended for a while. It wasn't to be, and not because of indolence when it comes to yard work, not this time.
Since I hadn't bothered to check with any electronic medium about the weather all day, I was living in the days before weather forecasting. So I noticed with some surprise a darkening sky at about 3, which was the next time I paid much attention. School was getting out then -- the second day of class for Lilly and her elementary school -- and I saw the flow of kids headed home as the clouds grew more intense.
Lilly got home by 3:10. By 3:30, rain was falling heavily. Not long after that, with a tornado warning had been issued by the National Weather Service; I'd decided to pay attention to electronic media again. Then I alternated in looking out of the front door and the back, to see if anything wicked our way was coming. The TV told of funnel clouds, but no touchdowns, near suburbs west of here, but not far west, so I thought watching the sky would be a good idea.
Out the back door -- that view so summerlike a few hours earlier -- I could see a line of trees along the major street a block south of us moving like a line of dancers, but closer trees, such as the honey locust a few feet away, weren't moving much. For a minute or two, the further-away trees moved as if a circular wind were pushing them. Not tight circles, but a broad motion.
I didn't like it at all, and the sight prompted me to go into tornado-response mode. That sounds like a careful plan, but it's really just closing the doors to the lower-level bathroom and laundry room to create a space without any windows on the lower level; making sure everyone has a pair of shoes down there, since we don't wear shoes in the house, and the last thing you want to be looking for if the roof blows off your house is shoes; and making sure I had my wallet, too, for similar reasons. If things had gotten really hairy -- that is, if I'd actually seen a funnel cloud -- I would have fetched the baby-bed mattress that's still in the house, for cover, and gotten everyone down to the little windowless space. Since we have no basement, it's the best we can do.
No tornadoes hit anywhere, but there was a lot of wind damage in various parts of the metro area, enough to make the national news. Downed trees and smashed cars make good news clips. In our area, trees were knocked down less than a mile from where I live, and so were some wooden fences. A Jewel grocery store had a large window busted, and I'm sure there were other buildings damaged nearby. On our block, however, no trees fell and only a handful of large branches landed on yards and the street. Whew.