“Colleen, why don’t you come join us for some nice, QUIET family time in Grand Bend?”
With those words, I decided to spend a week with my best girlfriend from high school and her four kids, at a cottage she had rented on the southeastern shore of Lake Huron.
This is a place where sunsets over the water are so breathtaking, they’ve been mentioned in National Geographic magazine.
The first things I packed in my suitcase were bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, and casual outfits. As a precautionary measure, I also packed a windbreaker, long pants, and an umbrella.
At the time, the umbrella seemed slightly EXCESSIVE – but what the heck, you never know what the weather will do.
The first five days were beautiful. Most of the time, we had sunny skies and warm weather. It rained once, but we didn’t care because we were all together.
Nearby Goderich hadn’t been so lucky. A tornado had touched down in the centre of town on the Sunday, and caused a lot of damage. Although the situation didn’t affect us personally, we felt badly for the people of that community.
Fast-forward three days – and the same convergence of weather factors had returned to the area. This time, the tornado warnings were for GRAND BEND.
It started with a torrential downpour, and then the skies turned ominous as fast-moving dark grey clouds whipped overhead. Even the air took on a strange colour.
Under normal conditions, the best course of action when threatened with a tornado is to head down to the basement to wait it out.
That’s great advice when you’re at home, however we were at a cottage that had two full floors but NO BASEMENT.
Just in case you’re wondering – realizing that you’re staying in a place with no basement during a tornado warning – is the DEFINITION of unnerving.
Add to that, the fact that EVERYONE in the household started getting texts and emails from friends and extended family members alerting us to the tornado warnings. Shortly after that, the messages took on a frantic edge – and the palpable long-distance emotional distress began to affect the people at the cottage.
It seems to be human nature to worry – and that’s exactly what happened with the majority of our little group of eight. What started out as mild amusement at the concept of front row seats for a tornado quickly edged toward PANIC.
Oddly enough, what calmed everyone down was an announcement on the local radio station requesting that people refrain from calling 9-1-1 for weather updates. It struck us as incredibly funny that anyone would CALL THE POLICE to ask the current whereabouts of a tornado.
It was humour that saved the day for us.
I’ve always believed that the best way to diffuse most forms of tension is to find something to laugh about – and laugh we did. In fact, that night turned out to be one of the most bonding experiences of the week.
The threat of a tornado has passed, but the memories will last a lifetime.