North Texas tornadoes through the eyes of a 4-year-old

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Tornado hits neighborhood near Dallas. April 3, 2012

Tornado hits neighborhood near Dallas. April 3, 2012

DENVER — The words of a child are powerful….and priceless. This blog is about a child’s experience in the North Texas severe weather outbreak Tuesday.

Let me give you a little background first. Today is one of those days when my two passions, weather and travel, collide.

The storm that dumped snow in Colorado and spawned tornadoes in Texas today is a classic early spring storm with part of it being a snow maker and part of it being a storm maker.

It looked like today was going to be a severe storm day across the southern Plains, but not to the magnitude it has ended up being. With DFW Airport in the cross-hairs of Mother Nature’s fury and put on a ground start for hours and the American Airlines hub being hit hard with hail and winds forcing inspection of fleet before planes can fly again, the impact on air travel across the United States is significant with delays from LAX to LGA and hundreds of cancellations at DFW.

I was at Posh Salon getting a haircut and highlights when my friend and fellow meteorologist Chris Tomer sent me a text at 12:47pm MDT:

“Jenn – Dallas under the gun…two tornadoes in Metro. Holy cow…the video of flying 18-wheelers is truly unbelievable.”

Being the weather geek that I am and having friends in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I immediately started searching for the video, looking through tweets, and praying for friends.

One of those friends is my longtime hometown friend, Sarah, and her family: husband Chris, daughters 4-year-old Aria and 2-year-old Caroline, and dog Lexi. Sarah and Chris are the two who climbed the 14er Mt. Massive with me last summer. They live in Plano, just north of Dallas.

Here’s the beginning of our text conversation that lasted throughout the afternoon. My comments are in green bubbles and Sarah’s in white bubbles.

Jennifer Broome's text conversation with her friend, Sarah. April 3, 2012

Jennifer Broome's text conversation with her friend, Sarah. April 3, 2012

At 2:04pm MDT, Sarah sent me these two pictures:

Caroline and Aria wait out storm in the shower. April 3, 2012

Caroline and Aria wait out storm in the shower. April 3, 2012

Caroline, Sarah, Aria and Lexi. April 3, 2012

Caroline, Sarah, Aria and Lexi. April 3, 2012

The shower is their safety zone. Sarah told me Aria insisted they stay in the shower as her school had really done a lot of storm safety education today.

As someone who has spoken to thousands of kids, throughout my meteorologist career, I was thrilled to hear that. Whenever I speak to kids, I always stress the importance of knowing your safety zone at home before the storm strikes.

It’s the lowest level of your home, as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible, and no windows. Basement is number one choice. If that’s not an option, then a bathroom, closet, or hallway with no windows in the center of the home.

With the deadly tornado outbreak in early March and today’s tornadoes in a major metropolitan area, it’s a good reminder for you to figure out your safety zone at home, no matter where you live.

I don’t have kids but know in stressful situations, like bad weather, allowing them to express what they’ve experienced is beneficial. Especially with kids, I don’t want them to necessarily be scared of storms, but I do want them to respect the power of Mother Nature and know what to do when the storms turn severe.

So I asked Aria to write me a story of her experience today. Ironically, the words of a child can give you a little humor in even the most dangerous and catastrophic events.

Here’s the account of the North Texas tornadoes as described by 4-year-old Aria:

“They moved us into another room at school because the storm was getting closer to us. Mommy came and picked me up, and we rushed out to the car in the rain and thunder like this: BOOM! The sirens were very loud, we could hear them. I asked my mom if the tornado was going to mess up our house like Dorothy’s. I really don’t want my room to be a mess. We hurried home and found a safe place to be. Our safe place is the shower in Mommy & Daddy’s bathroom because it has walls and no windows. My sister and my dog were VERY scared. The storm was very scary and very loud. There was a lot of wind and lots of rain drops on our pool. The storm would come and then pass by us and then it kept coming back! We had pillows and blankets and a snack in the shower. We watched the news on TV and it looked like a lot of houses got hurt. After it finally left, we went outside and I caught two snails. I named them Riley and Toady. I put them in a jar, but then took them out to play and one of them fell into the pool. Now the storm is stopped but I still hear thunder. I hope all those people are okay!”

That’s the hope of a child, searching for the rainbow after an afternoon of destruction. Thankfully my friends are okay and amazingly, so far no deaths or life-threatening injuries reported.