When I was about ten years old, my dad came in from the barn chores one summer day and sat down to breakfast.

“Margie, when you play outside this morning stay around the house as there’s going to be a big storm sometime today.”

“Okay, Dad. How do you know?”

“The radio man was announcing it on the news this morning. He said that rain and wind seemed to be heading toward us here in the Niagara Peninsula.”

Mother asked him, “What about the animals?”

“I’ve kept them in the barn today. They have hay and water so they’ll be okay.” Dad looked quite serious as he said this. He was usually cheerful but not today.

It was not long before the sky darkened. Alhough the dark gray clouds were fascinating to watch, even I could see that they looked and travelled differently today. Soon I decided that I should get inside instead of watching nature. My sister, Mary, was just getting her breakfast, as in summer holidays we could sleep in if we wanted to, or if there were not outdoor chores on our list.

We all jumped as a crack of thunder seemed to tear the sky apart. Every cloud closed in for a dense, solid-looking dark gray sky. Lightning shot through the sky in sudden shafts of brilliance. I had never seen such a sight and began to feel uneasy.

“Be sure all the windows are closed,” Dad shouted. We all raced around upstairs and down to check. Then the rain began — not in drops, but in heavy torrents and sheets. How glad I was to be inside.

“What about the kittens and mother cat?” I screamed. “Hush,” said mother. “Mother cat will have them safely in their box in the shed long ago. Animals can sense a storm long before we can.”

Just then we heard a strange howl. Dad said, “It’s the wind gathering speed with the rain.”

Sure enough, even our house shook a bit. Were we really safe? The sound of glass shattering made us all jump.

“It’s the bay window,” shouted Mother. Luckily, we were all in the kitchen away from the dining room, but we rushed to see the damage. Sure enough, the whole centre window of the bay was in sharp shards across the dining room floor, with several of Mother’s flowers pots joining the mess.

“I’ll get something to cover the window,” shouted Dad above the noise as he maneuvered his way around the piles of broken glass to the shed to get some boards. Another blast of wind brought a pile of fresh straw through the opening. Rain was bad enough—but straw! Then more and more straw entered our dining room as if invited, each blast wetter and stronger that the last. Hurriedly we rushed to close all inside doors to keep our indoor straw stack separate from other rooms if possible. Between the lightning, the loud thunder, the heavy rain and the howl of the wind, and a storm that was now inside our house as well as outside, I began to understand what the word “bedlam” meant.

After a short, tense time, everything was over. The wind died down to a decent breeze, the rain turned to a few sprinkles, and the sun began to show feebly through the clouds while turning them to rather pretty colours.

But our home had not settled down yet. Gingerly my dad gathered up the glass shards into the woodbox. Dad brought the big broom from the shed for Mother, and Mary used the house broom as they swept and swept straw. I had the dustpan and little brush to try to get all the tiny chaff from the baseboards and every corner. It was our neighbours, the Newhouses, who had their wheat threshed that week when the fresh straw was blown into a large straw stack behind their barn. Today they had half a stack…much of the other half was in our dining room. For days afterwards we were picking chaff from the floor, baseboards and crevices.

It was later that we learned on the news that we had experienced a tornado. Many years later I learned that in the McNab Road area several trees were uprooted from the sandy soil near the lake and one huge tree damaged a cottage, trapping a pregnant lady inside. She was rescued unhurt. It was a day to remember.

 

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