I didn’t hear a tornado siren. There’s one located directly behind my house. When it sounds, it is deafening. The city of Dallas activates them during severe weather. I’ve lived within Tornado Alley my entire life; the sirens are my fail-safe. But not this time.
This time, it malfunctioned. Our TV was off. I wasn’t on the computer or scrolling through my phone. My kids were playing a final video game before their 9:30pm cut off. Thunderstorms were forecasted around midnight, so the lightning flashes surprised me. North Texas weather, I thought to myself. Expect the unexpected.
The storm didn’t seem that bad. The rain drops were large and infrequent. There was no thunder. It was quiet, actually.
But that’s what happens before a tornado barrels through. Eerie silence.
Then, the Red Cross Emergency App began blaring on my phone. The house went black. Below my feet, the floor rumbled. I shouted for my kids to run to the closet and I grabbed our dogs. Minutes later we heard the freight train. With my phone battery dying, I fumbled blindly for a pillowcase, a project of the Red Cross Youth Preparedness Program. Inside was a flashlight and a portable phone charger. I followed the tornado’s 16-mile trek on the app’s tracking map. I was concerned about my mother who lives across town. But the tornado veered north, missing her by several miles.
Our dogs were anxious, panting and drooling onto our legs, their hot breath heating up the already warm closet. My older son begged to leave, believing the threat had passed with an absolute certainty only held by teenagers. He was cramped and uncomfortable, our German Shepherd’s paw digging into his thigh.
“Do not open that door,” I said. “The app alerts are still sounding.”
I sensed an eyeroll in the darkness. The tornado warning was extended—and extended again.
For 45 minutes, we sheltered snuggly in that closet until the Emergency App alerted us that the warning had expired. We opened the door, and I marked us as safe on the app. Thankfully, my family was unharmed, and our home sustained only minimal damage.
Many of my neighbors weren’t so lucky.
Down the street, interior walls were exposed. A mangled HVAC unit from the adjacent shopping center was wedged inside a neighbor’s roof. Rain flooded the lower units of quadplexes, their second floors stolen by the night air. In my backyard were walls from unknown houses and a jack-o’-lantern missing its trick-or-treaters. Three schools were levelled. Roads were closed, trapping many of us in our homes. Most of the neighborhood remained without power for days, taken out by a trampoline ensnarled in high-voltage lines. I remain baffled but grateful that there were no fatalities.
Ten tornadoes hit Dallas that Sunday, October 20, one passing directly over my house, lifting just high enough to spare us. But without the Red Cross Emergency App, I would’ve continued folding laundry, surrounded by windows, unaware an EF3 tornado was minutes away.
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