A real twister is coming

“Twister” came out when I was in junior high. I loved that movie. It had action, suspense and heart, and it defined my wardrobe for the next 18 months or so. I became obsessed with Helen Hunt’s white tank top and baggy khaki cargo pants. It was the epitome of independent adventurer, and I wore that outfit as many times as I could get away with each week, despite my being told I looked “uncool” and was dressed in “the colors of an onion.” What did they know? Clearly, they hadn’t seen the magic that was “Twister.”

Besides fashion inspiration, I had three other major takeaways from that movie. As the daughter of a psychologist, I thought the sex therapist’s relationship with her patients seemed highly unhealthy. Two, Bill Paxton was my first man crush. And three, tornadoes are awesome!

For years afterward, I wanted to be a storm chaser. The thrill of getting to be in a tornado (possibly even having my house be destroyed!) filled my imagination. It was the same gleeful ignorance that makes all kids wish they could break an arm so friends could sign their sweet neon orange cast.

More often than not, it’s the movies that breed these absurd notions of awesome. Basically every Disney movie made me wish for the early demise of my parents so I could go on some sort of epic adventure. The moment Clara learned to walk again in “Heidi,” I knew that my life would never be complete unless I became wheelchair-bound. Similarly, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Twister” made tornadoes a bucket list experience.

I went to college in Ohio, potential tornado country, and recall being disappointed when I graduated without experiencing a single raucous storm.

Perhaps this is why we were completely unprepared when, just after putting our children to bed, my husband and I were greeted by an ear-piercing bullhorn sound radiating from our phones. “TORNADO WARNING,” the message read.

Huh. OK. Good to know. I clicked off the alarm, sat on the couch and turned on Netflix.

It took a full minute until I thought that perhaps a storm notification accompanied by an eardrum-bursting sound should be responded to with more than just a “huh.”

I took to Facebook. It may be a hotbed of Russian-created propaganda, but it is also the best place to see pictures of circling skies headed directly toward your house. I checked on the page of a neighborhood that is closer to downtown. People reported hearing tornado sirens being blasted, something we can’t hear all the way out in the wild.

I asked whether this means we have to go to a basement. In a matter of seconds, about a dozen people responded simply, “Yes!”

Someone then explained that tornado warnings are only issued when a tornado has touched ground.

Huh. OK. Good to know.

But now, what to do?

Perhaps it was because of my love for Bill Paxton and for Helen Hunt’s fashion choices that I had never prepared for a tornado despite having moved to tornado country. When I lived in LA, my house was as earthquake-ready as one could be. Everything was fastened to the walls. I kept sneakers next to the bed. I had an earthquake kit in every room and had mapped out endless escape routes and hiding places. But for a tornado? I dunno. Isn’t there something about a bathtub?

We reluctantly woke the kids and took them down into our scary unfinished basement, which is known to house spiders, snakes and mice.

You know that moment in every slasher film when the good guys are running from the machete-wielding maniac and they somehow find themselves in a shed full of more machetes? That’s kind of what this felt like. Boxes strewn about, blocking every path. The floor covered in shattered glass. Creepy-crawlies lurking in every corner. The kids were definitely not going back to sleep.

We did our best. I found an old portable crib and put both kids inside. We tried to turn it into a game. Huddled together, at the bottom of the basement stairs, we waited for the swirling winds to pass. And they did, with zero damage.

I think I’m over my desire to be in a tornado now. But I am absolutely busting out my white tank top and khaki cargo pants. I have earned them.


Katie Langrock is a nationally

syndicated columnist.