Monday, February 28, 2011

The Tornado Warning

This morning I drove to school (tired, the Oscars went so late last night), but enjoying the bit of sunshine that seems to come earlier and earlier each day.  As it got lighter and the thermostat on my car dashboard got higher I thought it would be a pleasant day.  Highs in the 60s was what was predicted on the weather websites I frequent.  Thunderstorms (a hint at the summer I am just barely able to make out over the horizon now) were due to roll in late in the afternoon. 

The school day began, busy as usual, my kids a little more mellow than usual (not complaining), and the sun was streaming through the classroom windows.  I told them how warm it was supposed to be and that they probably wouldn't need their coats at recess (cheers abounded).

Mid-morning I took a spare second to quickly check my email and found this:

"We are under a tornado watch until 4:00 p.m.  Please review your Tornado/Disaster Drill procedures especially since we have all moved.  And, we will probably be having indoor recess."

Wait...what?!  I checked a weather website and saw that, indeed, a storm was closing in on us sooner than expected.  The kids were working away on stories they're writing, so I thought I would tell them of the recess scenario and briefly go over our disaster drill procedures after having collected their work.

The kids gathered on the carpet and this is what happened:

Me:  "Guys, I have some news.  You're probably going to have indoor recess today."
The kids cheer collectively--for whatever reason, indoor recess is special and wonderful.
Me:  "It looks nice out right now, but by the time it's time for recess, it will probably be raining.  There's a bad storm heading our way and there will probably be some thunder.  Also...deep breath...we are going to review our disaster drill rules because...another deep breath...we are under a tornado watch."

At this point, several things happen.  One little girl immediately gets tears in her eyes, two of the other girls look at each other and start giggling, and all the boys' faces light up like I just told them I was giving them all candy and ice cream.

Me, quickly continuing:  "Now, the chances of a tornado coming through this area is pretty much none, so you don't need to be worried." Girl's tears are suppressed, but she retains an extremely worried look on her face.  Boys continue to look elated.  "Do you remember how you're supposed to cover your head in the hallway?"

Bottoms go up in the air as heads are lowered to the ground and little hands cover the base of their neck (not heads).  

Me:  "OK, great.  So, just in case anything happens we'll go in the hallway to be safe.  Any questions?"

About 5 hands go zooming into the air.  Here are just a sampling of questions I received:

"When is the tornado coming?"
"Can the tornado go under the doors?"
"What if I have to go to the bathroom while the tornado is out there?"
"Why do the teachers get to stand up and walk around while we're on the floor?"
"Can a tornado go under a building?"
"What if the tornado smashed through the windows AND the wall AND the hallway?"
"I saw a fox in my backyard this morning!"
"Should I go into my attic if there's a tornado and I'm at my house?"
"My bathroom has windows in it at home!!  My bathroom has windows!!"
"Why would we get down in the hallway?  Shouldn't we go outside if there's a tornado?"
"Could you ever have snow and a tornado?"
"How does a tornado form, anyway?"

This line of questioning went on for about 10 minutes.  No kidding.  Kids have a ton of questions about this type of thing.  After answering ALL of their questions, we were mercifully interrupted by the PE teacher who had come to pick them up for PE.  

After all of that, there ended up being no tornado (surprise), and the thunder was distant.  It rained all afternoon, though.  Made for a fun commute home (kidding).

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