I felt it last week. Spring. The temperature rocketed up into the high-50s, and the atmosphere became unstable. That night was marked by incessant thunder and lightning and a torrential rain that prompted a Flash Flood Warning form the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Illinois. As far as severe weather, there was never anything to worry about. By the time the storm hit, the temperature had fallen into the 40s, which is too cold to support any meaningful punch. Strong thundestorms, for the most part, simply can't survive in such conditions, but it was a warning of sorts. Storm season is coming.
As a Chicago suburbanite, I'm no stranger to bad thunderstorms, nor would I consider tornadoes a rarity having been relatively close to a couple of them myself. Hell, in the late summer of 2008, eight tornadoes touched down in Will County on the same day (a fact that was not lost on me considering I'm on the edge of a bordering county), the strongest of which was an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. A couple of months later, I had to convince a house full of people to retreat to the basement when we were put on Tornado Warning. None of them listened until the transformer in the backyard blew and sprayed blue sparks in every direction.
When I was in middle school, a tornado hit one street away from me. I can't imagine it was rated higher than an EF1, but the sound of the wind whistling around the corners of our house was plenty to send all of us to the basement immediately. Ten minutes earlier, my brother, my cousins, and I had been playing Home Run Derby in the cul-de-sac across the street when my mother came out and ordered us inside. The sky was gray, but I could see nothing to indicate an impending storm. After it had passed, part of the roof at my friend's house had been pull from the frame.
My fear of these phenomena didn't start then, and in truth, I can't tamp down the exact time frame. My gut instinct is that my terrible fear of thunderstorms emanated from narrowly missing the EF2 that hit Iowa City in April 2006. By narrowly missing, I mean that my original plans would have placed me on the outskirts of Iowa City at the same time the twister tore up Iowa Avenue and dug a trench through the heart of town. I arrived a day later and spent that night exploring the rubble.
Being a man that regularly personifies inanimate objects and natural phenomena like, I suppose I assigned a vendetta to that tornado—some naricissistic thought that because it missed me, it would be back. And in some respects, I feel as if the damn thing is still trying to hunt me down. It's only a matter of time.
As much as I hate the pervasive and almost crippling cold of a Chicago Winter, at least it provides me a few months respite from looking to the West with dread in my heart. Why did I ever buy a house without a basement?