If you've been reading here in the past two years, you'll know I'm afraid of tornadoes. In particular, Kansas tornadoes. When storms get awful in the country, my cell service dumps me immediately, then the cable goes, and finally the power shuts down entirely. This leaves me to rely upon whoever's job it is to turn on the tornado siren. I worry that he's not even come in to work that day, much less that he can see the twister undulating in the pitch blackness of the storm. I do not want to meet this person because then I will never trust that he can do the job of switching the siren on in time to warn me.
When we had storms in Minnesota, I remember the neighbors coming outside and assessing the cloud cover. Parents discussed whatever they talk about before storms strike while the kids tried to muck in the ditch water as deep as possible before the parents noticed (and yelled). Often we'd head over to one neighbor's house and have a basement picnic while the storm battered away outside. It seemed more friendly than the Kansas storms do now. Here I do not see anyone so much as poke a head through the doorway as I stand on the porch and do my 360º assessment of the sky. Do I know what I'm looking for? Not really. Clouds that look mean.
So, to prevent the disaster catching me unawares, I retreat to the basement early. "Prematurely," some might say. Siren or no. I light my candles and bring a snack and get comfy on the futon with a book to read. I even bring my phone, since I might get service back eventually. My position helps me to ensure that the sump pump is working, despite spotty power. When the wind takes a breather, I'll poke my head upstairs and see how dark it is. If I can see the flower baskets on the porch swinging, it's probably okay to venture upstairs. If not, back into the hole.
This year I've been fortunate and have only visited my concrete kingdom twice. Once I barely got the first candle lit before the power died. (Incidentally this occurred during the season finale of Glee, which I still need to watch online.) The second time I went downstairs a good half hour before I heard the tornado siren's distinctive wail.
As I write this, I've been listening to the grumble of approaching thunder, awaiting yet another severe thunderstorm. But I am ready, if need be, to race for the basement. Wish we had a bathroom down there.