Monday, June 03, 2013

Tornadoes suck... but people are pretty darn cool!

Well the tornadoes that struck St. Charles MO last Friday, included our house in their tour, and while it didn't flatten our house, as it did to so many, it bashed us up pretty good all the same - still, though shook up, we're all ok.

You know the old saying "You find out who your real friends are when the chips are down?" Well I'm pleased to say that the ones I thought were my friends, proved me to be right about them (that's a little poke at me, on behalf of J & D :-) ). We had numerous calls, messages and tweets from friends far & wide who were eager to drop everything and come help out, and while due to space & frazzled brains, we kept it to a small number of nearby friends and old neighbors, it's nice to know that so many others would have showed up just as eagerly to help, lift, pack & , intoxicate & clean.

Thank you all so very much! Tornadoes definitely suck, but people proved themselves once again to be pretty darned cool.

The last few days have been a stressful, sleepless blur, especially now at 3:00 a.m., but I'd like to take a moment of semi quiet, and  pass on a little of what happened in the last 48 hrs, especially to those I haven't been able to reply to yet.

A couple of my wife Carol's TWA friends, Jerry & Dereck, had come to St. Louis Thursday to attend an event and spend the night with us. After the event that night, we'd driven home through some very nasty weather, but Friday evening seemed like any other overcast night; it seemed likely that we'd get a little rain, a little wind, some lightning & thunder, something to ooh & ahh over, but no biggee otherwise.

Missouri weather changes fast.

Jerry headed back home to Illinois, & I'd just driven our daughter Rachel to go rollerskating with some friends a couple miles away, and everything still seemed relatively normal. But coming home the lightening started flashing and right as I was turning back onto our street, the weather warning sirens were going off and the clouds were darkening quickly.


It still wasn't raining when I walked in the house, but Carol & Dereck were on the deck tying down the gazebo cover in case the storm picked up, and right about then we noticed the clouds were forming into a circular bank... hmm... and then between walking over to help tie them tie the last knot, and looking back up, the sky'd gone deep dark. We stepped back and checked the weather radar and it didn't look so great, to put it mildly. I pulled out my cell phone to call Rachel and tell her I was going to spoil her night and come back and pick her up, and as I was talking with her I glanced over my shoulder and saw the sight no one wants to see in their neighborhood, the debris foot of a tornado, a tall wall of swirling grey, rushing towards us from behind the tree line... sooo... I'm hollering at Carol & Dereck that we needed to get in the basement quick, calling the dogs and while I'm also telling Rachel to "...stay calm, all's well..." and right then the power went out.

As we rushed into the music room in our basement, and knelt down in the corner, we could feel a huge pressure build in our ears, and then as I'm telling Rachel on the phone, "It'll be all right Rachel, I'll be..." there was a loud WHAMMM!!!!, and the house shook, there was a bone wrenchingly loud blast of breaking glass & splintering wood and a swirling white noise for several seconds, and then it was past.

We came out of the room and it was full dark, outside and in. The doors to our entertainment area were wide open, there was rain streaming in where the atrium windows had been on the back wall of the house, and the dining room windows, frame & all (Jerry had a few choice words for our builder afterwards) had been torn out of the front of the house and was laying in the yard. Shattered glass was everywhere crunching under our feet, leaves were all over, and there was some weird puffy stuff all over the floor, the furniture, the walls, and every where else. Once we got flashlights we could see that the puffy stuff was the insulation from our attic, and it looked like Christmas Tree Flocking - anyone remember that stuff? - the entire house, everything, every nook and cranny, the mirrors, were all pasted with this fiberglass insulation.

Still, all in all, especially with the recent devastation of Moore Oklahoma fresh in mind, things didn't seem so bad for us in our house, other than the mess of course. But as I looked outside, things didn't look so good. Our neighbors roofs were banged up, huge chunks of siding were gone from their houses, deck rail & sections of deck were thrown down, a couple garage doors had been smashed in by the tornado, which kept on going, taking out the entire side of their garage walls. but as I pounded on their doors, everyone came up safe & sound and happy to be able to say that.

Then I turned around I saw the right side of our house - the siding was all gone and the upper half triangle of wall, everything between the siding & the eaves, was gone... nothing there except for the inside of our attic.


I began walking around the side of the house, the satellite dish had taken out a couple rows of garden bricking, our patio furniture was gone, our full sized stainless steel BBQ was gone, the gazebo we'd knotted down on the deck was amazingly still there, but the deck chairs, were gone and the deck dining table was pasted into  what remained of the deck rail under the gazebo... ahh... crud.

On the other side of the house, the siding was gone and the wall was bowing out. In Chad's room, the front bedroom on the side with the missing section of wall, the ceiling had collapsed and there was nothing but open air through the missing wall, same with bathroom, and water stains were quickly appearing throughout our living room ceiling.

We began making calls, and our insurance agent, John Knecht (he's awesome) found a disaster recovery crew, and then found a way past their initial "Sunday will be the earliest..." and had them out there within two hours; they pro-boarded up our attempts at filling the windows, tarped the house & began the inspection.  The entire time the crew is climbing all around the house, nailing, tarping, assessing... with the entire house coated in fiberglass insulation... Carol is cleaning the kitchen table; she's rattling off insurance & account details to John helping arrange this and that, but all the while cleaning and pledging the kitchen table & snapping at anyone who set something on it, wiping, polishing... I managed not to laugh out loud, but it was surreal, we soon had this spotless, sparkling table in the midst of complete chaos. That's my Carol ;-)

We finally got her & the kids to a motel around 3:00 am, Dereck & I stayed, against the disaster folk's warnings, in the basement guest room, where he got some sleep. Dereck did. Snoring? Think of a tuba being blown into a big bass drum & played back with full reverb through a concert quality PA system... if I got an hour of sleep, it was only through totaling up all the individual minutes of head noddings. LOL.

Our house is a mess, to say the least, perhaps structurally unsound. I've got a lot of books, many that are irreplaceable, either because they're collectors items, or from my Grandpa, or have my notes in them... sure, the insurance can write a check for them, but they can't be replaced. Other family stuff, pictures, etc... we got a storage locker and moved them into it... we're all fine.

Perspective - somethings really put priorities clearly where they belong.

Tornado's suck, no doubt about it, but people are pretty darn awesome. We had lots of friends calling, tweeting and emailing offering everything from themselves, food, materials, in order to help. We had several friends there Saturday, Jerry who'd left earlier on Friday (and was nervously trying to stay ahead of the weather), turned around and drove back from Illinois, so he & Dereck to could stay on and help and tolerate my moaning & grumbling (I'm a real jerk when I'm focused on something that's bothering me and anyone interrupts me, it's ridiculous, I know, fortunately family & friends brush it off. I'm sooo lucky). Everyone wanted to help, everyone from Dana, Hoft , the Kruta's, our GGI Crew, to Tea Party friends like Patch at Poed Patriot , Gretchen of Mo Ed Watchdog to Ed of Ed's Beds who offered Chain Saw's & Mattresses (ya gotta know Ed, if we'd have needed a civil war cannon, loaded, and an industrial grade power transformer, I've no doubt they'd have appeared) and many more, all of whom are deeply, deeply appreciated.

Jerry & Dereck - sometimes a visit turns into more than you bargained for!
Tornadoes suck, but friends are awesome!
Wall separated from roof
Neighbors hit too
Fiberglass insulation everywhere

But we kept it to a small handful of friends who live close by... it's almost more stress trying to coordinate each person, having them do something while overseeing what takes a knowing individual eye on each piece, yes, no, stay, goes, etc, so we kept it small (and who are familiar with my jerkiness), and our old next door neighbors showed too up with coffee & helping hands, as well as our insurance agent, who brought himself, his daughter (partner), food and manpower, picking through what was important to handle rescue right then, the rest is covered to either be cleaned, refurbished or replaced.

All in all, we're as lucky as it gets, we're all fine, and if all we've got to worry about is sentimental stuff... damn that's lucky, and to find out on top of that, that the people you counted as friends, really and truly are - that's priceless. And Dereck, who flew out from California, got a much more action packed visit than he bargained for, and now finally understands that tornado's ARE worse than earthquakes!

Ok, I'm way passed stupid-tired, thank you all who offered help and well wishes... there will soon be a need for Scotch!


julie said...

Holy smokes, Van - I'm REALLY glad everyone is OK! I hope everything gets put to rights quickly. And properly.

And if you need anything, from all the way over here in Florida, let me know :)

Doug Welch said...

The main thing is that everyone is ok. Houses and things can be replaced.


mushroom said...

Wow. That is bad. My problems all just dwindled away in comparison -- if that helps at all.

If you need anything, send an email to -- I'll send along my phone number and stuff.

John Lien said...

WOW! Ouch! So sorry to hear about the property destruction so glad to hear everyone is unharmed.

Yabu said...

I know a little about disaster fiends. Lost my house to a fire. Everything gone. I damn near died getting out.

My true friends saved my ass afterwards.