Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Worrying about the Wisconsin tornadoes April 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:49 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

FOR THE PAST 1 1/2 HOURS, after receiving a text from my second daughter that she is hunkered down in the basement of her Appleton, Wisconsin, apartment, I have been worrying.

Her area of Wisconsin has been under a tornado warning.

So, for awhile, we texted back and forth, until finally, I thought it easier to call.

She didn’t seem scared, only worried about predicted hail and about her car sitting out in the parking lot.

Me? My daughter’s safety is top on my list. She is on call tonight for her job as a Spanish medical interpreter and I wanted to make sure she stayed put.

I made the mistake of logging onto the severe weather chatline on the area’s television station, FOX 11 WLUK-TV. Reports of tornadoes and strong winds and damaged buildings are streaming in.

Minute after minute, I read aloud, to my girl, the live chat comments. Finally, she said, “Mom, I think you’re scaring yourself.”

She would be right. I’m afraid of tornadoes, which could have something to do with the Tracy tornado of June 13, 1968, which killed nine. I lived, back then, only 25 miles from that southwestern Minnesota town.

But on this stormy night in Wisconsin, I’m afraid of a tornado six hours away in a state where I know few towns by name, let alone the counties where tornado warnings have been issued.

I recognize Menasha and Oskosh and Appleton and Little Chute.

And as I read the live chat comments, I realize that half of what I’m reading may be untrue.

So I read this comment to my daughter: “If people could type only what they know to be true that would be helpful!”

For the mom back in Minnesota, that would be very helpful.

And then my daughter tells me she has to go, that work is calling. And I tell her, emphasizing each word, “Don’t go anywhere.”

I’m hoping she will listen.

I tell her dad to call her.

But before he can, my cell phone rings. My daughter was asked to interpret over the phone. But because she was hunkered in the basement, without everything she needed for work, the scheduler told her to stay put.

For that I am thankful.

The last time I checked the National Weather Service, the storm was moving away from Appleton, toward the Green Bay area.

I’ve asked my daughter to let me know if there’s any storm damage in her area of Wisconsin.

But for now, I think I’ll log off that live severe weather chat line and call it a night. Oh, and I’ll say a prayer for our Wisconsin neighbors, adding a prayer also that my daughter doesn’t get called out on this stormy night.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


6 Responses to “Worrying about the Wisconsin tornadoes”

  1. David Mettille Says:

    Hi, Audrey – I actually stumbled on your blog while looking for some video footage of tonight’s storm. Google results make it a small world!

    Anyway, in case you haven’t heard from your daughter, the storms have subsided here in Appleton. I don’t know what part of the city your daughter lives in, but my home is near downtown — and the only damage I have seen is tree damage and blown over garbage cans/patio chairs. The storm was pretty intense, but we were spared the worst it seems. Even the hail we got was much smaller than was reported in some surrounding communities, so hopefully her car is OK.

    I also have a mother who is far away and was worried … so when I saw this, I had to leave a comment because I hoped someone would do the same for my mom.

    I hope you have a great night …

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      David, thanks so much for updating me on the storm damage in your area of Appleton, Wisconsin. My daughter and I kept in pretty close contact until about 9:45 p.m. Because she was in the basement laundry room of her apartment complex with only her personal and work cell phones, I really was her line of communication to what was happening outside.

      What truly amazed me is that she and a few young girls were the only apartment residents taking shelter. The parents of said children were upstairs in their apartments. Having grown up on the wind-swept Minnesota prairie, I take tornado warnings very seriously. And from everything I was reading online Sunday evening, Appleton residents should have been heeding warnings to take shelter.

      That said, David, I hope you were in a safe place and I truly appreciate that you took the time to comment on my blog and tell me that your community, my daughter’s new home, was pretty much spared.

      Your mom raised you right to reach out to a stranger like me and summarize the situation in Appleton. Thank you.

      • David Mettille Says:

        Thanks for the compliments!

        I was shocked to hear that some of your daughter’s neighbors did not heed the warnings! It is not typical that the forecaster can tell you by noon on a given day that there *will* be tornadoes in your area that night. We all knew it was serious — I was in the basement under the stairs with the kids and dogs!

        I was also surprised to find as much damage as I did this morning! The veil of night had definitely led me to misjudge how much that storm actually did. In our neighborhood, many mature trees are gone, several garages are destroyed … some broken windows from flying debris. I will be spending my afternoon cleaning up our yard and cutting the fallen limbs in the backyard into more manageable pieces.

        Have a great day!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        David, I’m so sorry to hear about the storm damage in your neighborhood and to your property specifically. Sounds like, at least, your home was not touched.

        My daughter lives in northwest Appleton. I’m thankful she had enough sense to go to the basement laundry room in her apartment for shelter. I cannot fathom why other residents who were home also would not have done so.

        I guess I instilled in her a healthy respect for storms, and tornadoes specifically. I always tried not to make her super afraid, but to make her realize these storms need to be taken seriously.

        I had actually called her earlier in the day to ask about the weather, knowing bad weather was in the forecast for Wisconsin.

        So glad you and your family were wise enough to take cover last night. Hopefully, those who didn’t in Appleton will learn from this experience.

  2. Bernie Says:

    I didn’t hear about this until last night when I was going to bed. I hope that you have good news from her.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      No news is likely good news at this point. However, I expect my daughter may see some damage today when she’s out and about interpreting at clinics and hospitals in and around Appleton, Wisconsin.

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