Last Friday, southern Illinois was hit with a major storm. Later, I have heard from numerous people that it was referred to as an actual “inland hurricane.” I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but winds were estimated to be over 100 mph. It was freaky. I sit by the window at work, so while I was on the phone doing my thing, I was also keeping an eye out as the sky turned pitch black. Then an announcement came overhead: Everyone needed to move into safety areas.
We hung up immediately and took cover. We stayed in our designated areas for about 45 minutes. (The funny thing about this is that it turns out that I didn’t quite hang up with the person I had been on the phone with, and she stayed there and waited the entire 45 minutes until I came back!) I was back on phones for about 20 minutes, left for lunch, and mused with my friend/co-worker Shannon over what we had seen: There was a second part of the storm. We bet that within a half hour, we were going to have to take cover again.
Turns out we were completely right. But this time, it was different. As I was trying to clock back in from lunch, suddenly it got quiet, despite people answering calls. Then I realized that people weren’t exactly taking calls. They were asking each other what was going on with the computers, which were running very slowly and doing some odd things. Mine was running scripts I had never seen before. We realized the background hum that had disappeared was the air shutting off. Then a woman came over to those of us who sit by the window and ushered us away, telling us we needed to get away from the glass. We were herded into another room. Soon after, everyone else filed in. While we were waiting for the okay to leave, we lost power. We heard that a window had imploded in our building. People started getting worried. Schools were keeping students; parents were worried about their kids, understandably. We listened to the radio: A sign at a nearby car dealership fell and smashed the cars in its lot. A furniture store, also nearby, was rumored to have part of its roof torn off. A tornado hit just a couple towns over.
Me, I was freaking out. Storms don’t scare me, but I was worried about Jim. At the time of the storm, Jim was driving to class. We sat in the dark, rumors flew, and I fretted, wondering if Jim had gotten stuck in it. Shannon had assured me earlier that Jim was one of the smartest people we both knew; if anyone would keep his head in a storm, it’d be Jim. It was the only thing that was keeping me sane right then.
Finally, they determined it to be all clear, but we still had no power. We roamed around the building, wondering when they’d let us leave. They let us use our phones to try to call people since many of our cell phones weren’t working. I kept trying to call Jim and my sister Jennifer. Finally, I got a hold of him. Jim had gotten caught in the storm–he was soaked but okay. Furthermore, he told me, he was on his way to pick me up, even though I didn’t get off until 5:30. (It was only about 2:30 at this point.) I asked him to go back home, but he said he couldn’t turn back anyway. The roads were a mess.
I told Shannon about Jim trying to come pick me up. She called him, told him she and Phil would take care of me and get me home, and to go back. Didn’t work. She hung up and looked at me. “He said, ‘You don’t understand. I love her, I have to see her now.’ And he can’t turn around anyway. ”
Finally, around 3:30, they told us they were closing the building and sending us home. The problem was now I couldn’t stay at work, and Jim still wasn’t there. Phil, Shannon, and I piled into their car and started trying to call people. Cell phones weren’t working great right then, but I got ahold of Jim, who said to meet him at Walmart. Traffic was horrible; the damage was worse. Lines were down everywhere, insulation was spewed all over the highway, trees were not just broken but torn from the ground, roots and all.
When we arrived to the Walmart parking lot, we found poor Jim had not only locked himself out of my car, but he was standing in the parking lot barefoot (his shoes had gotten soaked in the storm and he left them in the car that he now could not get in) and, because he didn’t realize how much gas the horrid traffic was going to eat up, the car was now out of gas.
In the end, we all got where we needed to go. Power was out for a long time. The storm was Friday, and I just got power in my apartment today, on Wednesday. Here are some pictures I took from my cell phone. I have more, but this will do for now:
And this, I’m afraid, is definitely not the worst of it. Someone at work has a tree in her kitchen now. Several have lost roofs. But you know what the good thing is? The death count, from what I’ve heard (remember, I’ve been without a source of power for 6 days now), is very low.
I’m so glad to have power. But wouldn’t you know it, I just heard thunder…