Mitten List: Survive a (Kind of) Tornado

November 19, 2013
In all honesty, surviving a tornado was never on my Mitten List — the list of things I want to do and see while I’m living in Michigan.

Mostly because my Mitten List is pretty much just a really long list of microbrew beer from Michigan I feel I need to drink. Which reminds me: I need to drink more beer.

And because, well, I never knew surviving (or not surviving) a tornado was even a possibility in Michigan. Before I moved here, I had no idea Michigan even got tornadoes. Isn’t Michigan too far north for that kind of thing? I mean, we’re practically Canada! I thought tornadoes were reserved for states farther south – you know, states where you can wear flip-flops year-round and order stuff like grits and fried alligator off the menu.

And then I spotted this sign in the geology building at the university where I work.

2013-09-20 16.26.53

At first, I thought it was just a funny geologist joke. Not that it was particularly funny. But, you know, how geologists can be.

But then I asked around and found out that Michigan does, indeed, get tornadoes. I feel like geography really duped me on this one. I mean, sure, I expected some bad weather in Michigan – but, you know, like, snow and stuff.

I know snow. Sure, I don’t particularly like snow, but I know what to do when it shows up. (Basically, use it as an excuse to buy lots of boots and drink your body weight in hot chocolate. You’re welcome.)

THIS I can handle. Where's my hot chocolate?

THIS I can handle. Where’s my hot chocolate?

I don’t know anything about tornadoes. In fact, until this weekend, my working knowledge of tornadoes was based entirely off of The Wizard of Oz.

And then I woke up on Sunday to the news that there was a fifteen percent chance that Kalamazoo was going to be hit by a tornado.

At which point I started to do some research.

And by “research” I mean “Facebook.”

After posting a number of Facebook status updates about how I was totally going to die, a number of people responded with helpful suggestions on how to survive a tornado.

One friend suggested I drag a mattress into the hallway of my building and lie down underneath it. This seemed like a fun way to make a first impression on my neighbors, many of whom I haven’t met yet. But I wasn’t too keen on dragging my mattress anywhere as it’s huge and heavy. It’s also the most expensive thing in my apartment as it’s the only thing in my apartment that wasn’t found in a dumpster.

My most prized possession. And not exactly draggable.

My most prized possession. And not exactly draggable.

Another friend suggested I wear a helmet. I asked him if a laundry basket would do.

Other friends told me to get far away from any windows and bring lots of food and drinks.

Hide in a dark room with food and drinks?

Now, THIS.

This I could do.

Once the wind and rain started beating against my windows, I grabbed a bag of mini-pretzels and a beer and headed to my bathroom where I sat in my bathtub with a laundry basket over my head.


So, basically, your typical Sunday night at home.

Luckily, we never did get hit by a tornado.

I didn’t even lose power.

Probably the worst thing that happened was when the public radio station I was listening to switched back to its “regular programming” and I had to listen to some financial guru discuss 401Ks for half an hour while I waited for updates on how I was totally going to die. (Hint: if the public radio station is giving you financial tips and not “GET UNDER A MATTRESS RIGHT NOW” tips, you’re probably not going to die anytime soon. Just saying.)

But, still, I think this means I can wipe tornadoes off my Mitten List.

Which means no more tornadoes are allowed in Michigan while I’m here.

You hear me, tornadoes? I won’t allow it.

Besides, I need to free up some of the space on my Mitten List for more beer.

Have you ever experienced a tornado? Got any advice on what I should do in case the tornadoes don’t listen to me and show up again?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On November 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm Priya said:

    I don’t think I would have worried about a 15% chance of a tornado. But then again, what do I know? It was raining like crazy here on Sunday though, and the restaurant I was at for brunch had the power come on and off. We’d cheer every time the lights came back on.
    Priya recently posted..The Big TWO SIX Has Travel Plans (And It Terrifies Me)

  2. On November 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm Heather said:

    That is quite possibly the best selfie of all time! I lived through a tornado in Virginia and it was terrifying. The sky turned a strange shade of yellow and started to growl. I grabbed my cat and covered us with a blanket in the bathtub. When the tornado passed by, it sounded like a freight train! Luckily my building wasn’t hit, but my car sustained thousands of dollars in hail damage. Hope to never experience another one!
    Heather recently posted..Apple Picking, Apple Cake and Apple Cider Donuts

  3. On November 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm Jess said:

    I had a few tornado scares when I was in Louisiana. I felt rather betrayed, since I’d imagined they were a mid-west type of thing – I’d signed up to deal with hurricanes and occasional alligators, not tornadoes.

    The bright side is that since this was New Orleans, it was easy to find enough daiquiris to not care about the weather at all.
    Jess recently posted..The Great Beringian Road-trip Part 4: North To Adventure on the Klondike Highway

  4. On November 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm Erika said:

    I, like you, felt the same way with all of this stuff! I was like, “WHAT DO I DO?” I only remembered some stuff I learned from the Baby-Sitter’s Club and Twister — find a bathroom or a basement? Anyway, at least you didn’t lose power like we did! And now that you survived, it’s a totally cool thing to put on your Mitten List! 🙂
    Erika recently posted..Mindstew

    • On November 20, 2013 at 11:19 am Sally said:

      Quite a lot of my coworkers lost power (and still don’t have any power!), so I was really lucky. I lost power for all of 2 seconds and it only meant I had to sign back into Hulu so I could finish watching my shows. Glad to hear you survived as well!

  5. On November 20, 2013 at 8:17 am Alyson said:

    I’ve been through a pretty scary tornado in Texas, lots and lots of damage. We hit in a basement, which exist in Texas, but for areas they don’t my best advice also deals with a mattress & tub.

    My husband had never dealt with tornadoes either and his first response was to try to go outside and check out the hail….

    • On November 20, 2013 at 11:18 am Sally said:

      My question is how do you even get your mattress into the bathroom? I’m pretty sure my mattress wouldn’t even fit through the door, let alone on top of the tub. Do you need a spare smaller mattress around just in case of tornadoes? And I’m glad to know I’m not the only tornado-clueless out there! (And I do feel slightly better that my first reaction was NOT to go outside.)

  6. On November 20, 2013 at 7:53 pm Sue B said:

    We get a lot of tornadoes here in Tennessee. The last one I was in happened when I was driving home. They tell you not to drive a car, but since I was already in one, that didn’t help. Then you are supposed to get out and get into a ditch. Well, there was debris in the air, and large hail, and several feet of cold water in the ditch, so I did the only thing I could do, which was try to outrun it. Which they also tell you not to do. So really, I’m not that much help.

  7. On November 21, 2013 at 11:04 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    Y’know, I was surprised when you were updating about tornadoes on Facebook as I, too, assumed that Michigan was too far north to get them. I say get out of that tricksy state and head further north…like, Alaska or Montana or something. Or just move to Canada.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..The Big Reveal: Acceptance And New Beginnings

  8. On November 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm Adam said:

    I grew up in Texas and we got our fair share of tornado warnings and watches (still can’t remember which of the two is more severe). As a kid there was definitely something to enjoy. I’ve got a pretty strong memory of grabbing our kittens and hiding out in my Dad’s closet for an hour while the cats scrambled over one another and we sat on pillows. Fun times.

    Glad to hear you were able to have some fun with this! I definitely enjoyed reading about your first tornado experience 🙂
    Adam recently posted..My 30th Year & All The Things I Want To Do

  9. On November 22, 2013 at 9:28 pm mhagy said:

    I really found this story, a cute way to learn what to “do” during a tornado. I live on a college campus in Ohio in the dorms, and that same day people were freaking out about the weather and what to do during a tornado threat. This story reminded me of how my soriority sisters made plans to combat the tornado, that ultimately never came.

  10. On November 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm Brittany @ Paws for Beer said:

    I live in Idaho and it is odd and rare but we do get the occasional tornado. It’s fun to share with my co-workers who are new to the area, and mostly from the east coast, about the one tornado that I “lived through” that ripped through a building near our workplace. I’d probably blow their minds if I told them we do get the occasional earthquake too!
    Brittany @ Paws for Beer recently posted..Photo Friday 11/22/2013

    • On November 26, 2013 at 10:40 am Sally said:

      YIKES. Earthquakes, too? Remind me to stay away from Idaho. I’d be a total goner! I have absolutely no earthquake-survival skills despite having lived in Japan for 4 years. Every time I felt one I just thought a really big truck was going by.

  11. On November 24, 2013 at 12:49 am Sally said:

    Pittsburgh had a tornado a long time ago and later, I went to a baseball game and they handed out T-shirts that said “Pittsburgh Tornado” and the date.

    So maybe you need a special version of an Unbrave Girl t-shirt with “tornado survivor” written on the back…
    Sally recently posted..My Top 5 Wanderlist

  12. On November 26, 2013 at 7:58 am Ceri said:

    Sitting under than basket with a beer, omg, I love you. Hahahaha. That’s too brilliant. And, also, yeah, don’t tornadoes only occur in Kansas? :/ I’d be useless.
    Ceri recently posted..Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico City

  13. On November 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm choi kum fook said:

    We are quite often heard the news of tornado occur in USA,whereas seldom happen in Malaysia. So we are considered quite lucky and thankful! Sometime if you have “LUCK”,may can be seen it occur on the seaside in my home down, of course a quite distance from eyesight. Miss Sally,have you seen sight before , on sea not on land? If not come to home town again! Ha! Ha!

  14. On December 3, 2013 at 8:43 pm Vagabond Tim said:

    Speaking of Tornadoes and Canada, when I was a kid we drove to Edmonton to visit grandma. As we are coming up the road into town it occurs to us that there is no traffic, and no one around. So my dad, being dad, turns up the cassette tape (I am that old, shut up) even louder and tells us to shut up about it.
    Had he turned on the radio he might have discovered that the disturbing lack of people was in fact due to the massive tornado destroying the eastern part of town while we absently drove through the west with highway to hell playing at 40thousand decibels.

    The best part came when we arrived at grandmas house to find that despite the cars in the driveway no one appeared to be home. After several minutes of impatient knocking and language not fit for children my grandparents came upstairs from the basement where they had been hiding to inform my parents that they were out of their damn minds being outside during a tornado, to which they replied… “what tornado?”
    Vagabond Tim recently posted..So I spent the day visiting Hobbits


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge