Michelle Martin

Weather eye

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

We were already in the basement when the tornado sirens went off.

At least, Caroline and Teresa and I were. My husband had to go upstairs to tell Frank that heading for the basement was not optional. Besides, we needed him to carry the dog. She’s afraid of the basement stairs.

The Aug. 10 storm, which blasted straight across northern Illinois from Iowa on its way to Lake Michigan, didn’t do any real damage near our house. There were branches down, some of them large, and a power outage not far away, but other neighborhoods had it worse.

A tornado actually touched down in Rogers Park, only a few miles away, and it was one of several that touched down that afternoon.

Teresa, who is fascinated with the weather, jumped when the television and all of our phones beeped with alerts at the same time, several minutes ahead of the sirens.

We were able to take advantage of the newly cleaned out basement — my husband’s quarantine project — and uninterrupted power and WiFi to watch videos. Frank, who is self-isolating because his job requires contact with the public, stayed at the other end of the basement and studied for one of his summer classes. Teresa found some of her old toys, taken to the basement when she outgrew them, and indulged in some 10-year-old nostalgia. The dog explored the new indoor territory.

About 45 minutes later, everything was over. Frank carried the dog upstairs and continued studying. Teresa and Tony went on the front porch to watch the storm move off to the east, and Caroline and I continued our workdays, her from her bedroom and me from the dining room table.

As fast as the storm came, it was gone. It was like nothing had happened at all.

For some people, the results were worse; thousands of people had their power out for a day or more, we saw plenty of pictures of cars under fallen trees, with who knows how much damage to be repaired later, and some homes suffered damage as well. None of it was close the devastation we’ve seen from tornadoes in other parts of the country and state.

Weather reminds us all that not everything is under our control, that the majesty of creation can make all of us look and feel small. When the thunder rolls and the wind blows, it can sound like the voice of God.

But, as we learn from the story of Elijah, that’s not the only way we can hear God. God is also in the “still, small voice,” the silence of the night and the stillness of the early morning.

What’s important is that we take the time to listen.




  • family life