Time Flies When You’re Having Tornado Warnings

This weekend we went to the Wisconsin Dells. For those of you who don’t know what that it, it is a place in Wisconsin that has more water parks per capita, more water parks per square mile than any other location on the face of the earth.

It is the Mecca of water parks, water park nirvana, so to speak.

We went there for a three-day weekend with the kids. And we had a soaking good time on Friday. Saturday, not so much. Saturday the rains came. Noah was seen building his arc. Animals were marching two by two. (Which is apropos, now that I think about it since one of the largest outdoor water parks here is called Noah’s Arc.) And we were all ended up huddled in the hallway of the resort while whispers of tornados swarmed all about us.

The first time, about 2 in the afternoon, we had been up in the lobby. As we descended the stairs we saw everyone, and I mean everyone, sitting in the halls of the first level, while lifeguards and hotel employees told everyone to keep down.

OK. Why didn’t they make an announcement? Up in the lobby it seemed business as usual. We had been outside watching the dark swirling storm clouds coming and took it upon ourselves to seek shelter.

That’s when we saw everyone in the halls. In fact, the father of the family we were with had gone to his car to get some sodas or something and was going to meet us at our room. We never made it to our room and as I was going down to tell him we were stuck in the hall, the lifeguards were telling people to put their heads down.

OK. This is fun. I kept going and met up with the father and we started to walk back. A lifeguard told us we couldn’t go back. Everyone was to stay put. So we stayed put for about a minute, then walked past and down the hall.

It was stifling hot in the hall; I was having trouble breathing. Sweat is beading on my forehead. I suffer from mild claustrophobia and agoraphobia, so tight places and crowds bother me. Tight places WITH crowds? I’m not doing so well, but I had to pretend things were all right for the kids. They were scared of the tornado. I’m thinking a tornado would be a relief from the fact that I couldn’t breath.

So after a half hour or so, the all clear sounded and we returned to our room.

Then we went out to dinner later. We return from dinner and the skies are just cloudy grey, nothing special about them. As we entered the hotel, there is a lifeguard in the doorway. Doesn’t say anything, so we assume he’s waiting for a ride. Then we get to the hallway and there’s another lifeguard. And people. In the hall again.

Another tornado? Everything looked fine outside. So we’re huddled in the hall, this time right outside our room. We could have gone in and ended this nonsense, but the room had glass doors on the patio. Probably not a good place to be. So we stay put.

And this lifeguard comes down and puts her hand to her ear, listening. She’s near us. There are several children around and a scared mother with a newborn. So this lifeguard, not the sharpest pencil in the box, says after listening to her earpiece.

“Oh no! No. A tornado touched down.” Then starts to hurry off.

I say, “Where?”

She says, “I don’t know.” Then she’s gone, leaving terrified, crying children in her wake.

Idiot.

My seven-year-old says, “We’re all going to die.”

And I say, “The tornado was in Iowa. Not even anywhere around here.”

So we got on the phone, the couple we had been staying with had returned home by this point and we’re checking with them about the weather radar. They informed us that no tornados have touched down anywhere in Wisconsin.

So we’re counting down the time to when the weather alert ends. And my seven-year-old keeps asking me every 30 seconds, “How much time?”

And finally the time ends, but wait, here comes another lifeguard. “The alert has been extended another 45 minutes.”

Fantastic. 45 more minutes with scared children, a crying mother, and annoying lifeguards.

But it ended without incident and we returned to our room to watch TV since it was now too late to go back to the water park.

And that was how I spent my summer vacation.

-30-

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