Apr 14, 2015

Spring ... And All That It Brings!

I'm sure everybody loves spring; the warmer temperatures, the promise of summer, color everywhere. I am no exception!

I grew up in the northeastern corner of Illinois, virtually on Lake Michigan, and I lived there for most of my life, until we moved to central Illinois in the late 1990's. It wasn't until moving here that I experienced spring. Lake Michigan has a huge impact on the weather. In the fall, it's pretty nice because the temperature is usually quite a bit warmer with the first frost being considerably later than further west, but in the spring it has the opposite effect. The temperatures can move from winter to summer almost overnight, seemingly skipping spring altogether. I can even recall a time in May when it snowed!

Living here in the Springfield, Illinois area is very different. When the calendar says spring the weather usually does too. It's so nice not to have to wear winter coats, scarves, hats, and mittens anymore. Now, a simple light weight jacket or sweater will suffice. 

And what beautiful colors spring brings! The ornamental pear tree in our front yard is something to behold. No picture can do it justice when it's in full bloom. It's as if it's covered with snow!

It may be beautiful to look at, but don't inhale too deeply. The aroma is mildly reminiscent of fish!  Yesterday my son stopped by for a brief visit and the first words out of his mouth upon entering the house were, "What stinks in the yard?"

This pear tree is new. We planted it in the fall of 2006. At that time we had no trees in our yard at all. None! All of them, five mature trees, had been destroyed by a tornado in the spring.

Tornadoes have been on my mind lately. Two communities in northern Illinois were devastated by tornadoes last week. There were even 2 deaths. So very sad. Fortunately in 2006 when 2 different tornadoes hit our community, almost simultaneously, there were no deaths and only minor injuries. We had ample warning, which certainly helped. There had been a massive outbreak of tornadoes the previous few days to the west of us and so everyone was especially vigilant in keeping watch.

We were home when it struck in the early evening of March 12, 2006. The sirens blared and we calmly headed for the basement. I wasn't too concerned, but better safe than sorry, I thought. Our almost 18 year old son, 2 daughters who were 13 and 10, and my husband and I took shelter. We could hear the sound of the wind outside and then suddenly we lost power. Both of my daughters were crying softly. We were trying to reassure them, but when my ears started popping with the pressure changes, I was also trying to reassure myself.  (Later, I joked that the next time the tornado siren warns of an approaching tornado I should be able to sit outside on the front porch. After all, what are the odds that a tornado will follow the exact same path again?) Ha Ha...

It only lasted for a moment and then quiet. When we went outside we were dumb founded. Our house appeared at first glance to be unscathed, but not so for other homes as we looked around and saw great damage. Several neighbors' homes had trees lying on top of them. Huge trees lay across the road making it impassable.

Neighbors greeted each other asking if anyone was hurt, trying to account for everyone.  No cell phones worked as the cell towers were down, along with all the power, cable, and phone lines. Darkness was quickly approaching so it wasn't really until the next day that the full devastation could be seen.

Between these two trees my husband had built a raised "tree house" for the kids to play in and the next day it was completely gone without a single trace. Days later during the clean up, pieces of the tree house were found among the debris in a neighbor's yard.

The picture below is the house directly behind us. The family was home at the time but were unharmed.  It was almost a year before their house was rebuilt and they were able to return to normalcy.

Aftermath of the tornado "photo shoot" for my older daughter!

In our backyard utility crews worked for several days cleaning up, removing trees and other debris in preparation for the restoration of power. Oh, how we loved to see men in hard hats! It was more than a week before our power was restored.

All in all we came through it pretty much unscathed. We did require a new roof as many of the shingles had been blown away. There were a few broken windows but fortunately only the storm windows broke. There was damage to the gutters and siding which were replaced later in the year. We got off pretty lightly. Other families had to deal with much greater devastation, including temporary relocation, due to severely damaged or destroyed homes. Until you witness a tornado first hand it's pretty hard to imagine just how much of an impact it has. In a matter of minutes the whole landscape is changed.

Yes, spring can bring much more than warmer temperatures and beautifully blossoming trees.


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