Katrick: Tornado Sirens and Calm After the Storm

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After witnessing a warning on their local news, a mother leads her family into the basement to wait out the storm.

Later, when the father finally arrives home to join his family downstairs, he is relieved to find not only his wife and children safe, but also their dogs.

Have you seen this commercial for Dish Network? How many times have you experienced this real-time ad? On July 12, 1992, my wife, our two children and our two cats did it. The gray sky, punctuated by a few distant rumbles of thunder, turned boiling green and yellow. Genoa’s two tornado sirens, including the one just opposite, sounded constantly.

When I was a child, our most frequent tornadic events occurred in the month of June. Back then, there were no sirens to sound. All we had was the high-pitched whine of a weather radio, or our excellent weatherman, Dick Goddard, interrupting regular programs.

Sometimes we tuned in to Toledo stations and turned the knob down so the screen went completely black. Then it would light up, depending on the frequency of the lightning, indicating how close and violent the storm was.

I was downright scared. Sometimes I curled up in a fetal position, closed my eyes and plugged my ears. Our tornado shelter was the living room couch against an interior wall, where we were comforted by Mom. Dad often slept through all this commotion, especially when he worked night shifts at the steel mill.

After the storm came an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. What a beautiful and welcome sight to see the sun set below the cloud shelf to the west and make rainbows against the towering cumulonimbus clouds heading east.

These days, I like to watch the storms approaching from my porch. I’m more excited than scared and always in awe of the forces of nature at work. Then I reflect on passages like this from Luke 8:23-25:

“While they were sailing, Jesus fell asleep. A gust fell on the lake, so the boat was submerged, and they were in great danger. The disciples went to wake him up saying, “Master, Master, we are going to drown!

He arose and threatened the wind and the raging waters; the storm died down, and everything was calm.

‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples. In fear and astonishment, they asked themselves: “Who is it? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.

This takes me back to March 2, when I joined my friends and colleagues from the Newark Area Ministerial Association (NAMA) in the courthouse plaza for an Ash Wednesday service. As we held bulletins, preparing to share our liturgy, the tornado siren went off for its weekly test. It made me wonder what we would have done, if this had been the real thing.

Chills raced up and down my spine, followed by peace and quiet. Then I felt the radiant heat of Him who stilled the waters.

It reminded me of those words of the Psalmist. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1- 2).


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