Is it possible for one person to actually cause natural disasters every where they go?
True natural disasters – like avalanches, blizzards and sandstorms?
Really really big sandstorms? Like in The Mummy? In fact, the really big sandstorm is all i can remember from that movie. That, and Brendan Fraser, who i have a love/hate silver screen relationship with. i mean, Encino Man was pretty funny, as far as 1990’s quirky silly movies go. George of the Jungle wasn’t bad, and Son in Law, if you can stand Pauly Shore, was a giggle fest too. Being a total rock-star wannabe, i loved Airheads and by the way, his hair was MAGNIFICENT. And then Gods and Monsters comes along and i’m thinking – WOW. Little Brendan has grown up! But no…he slides back into saccharine silliness with a run of goofy flicks that seem to all involve him interacting with talking bears or rabbits. Ugh. And now, i just saw there’s yet another Mummy film coming out starring Tom Cruise which is EXACTLY what we need. Sigh.
Tom and Brendan aside, i had never actually seen a sandstorm until a recent weekend vacation to Vegas brought me up close and personal to one.
i had been in a couple of fierce electrical storms in Houston, which proved to be yet another natural phenomenon in which i have NO IDEA how to behave. i was driving down the freeway when it started. Do i stop? Keep driving? Is my car the safest place with the rubber tires or am i a moving metal lightening target? Should i stay out in the open or hide under the tallest/shortest tree? Stop, Drop and Roll? Cover my head and find a desk to hide under?
WHY DIDN’T i EVER HAVE ELECTRICAL STORM PREPAREDNESS TRAINING??
All of these questions raced through my head until a tree i was driving past was suddenly struck by lightening and exploded into flames. After that, the only thought i had as i mashed the gas pedal and drove for dear life was i’MGONNADIEi’MGONNADIEi’MGONNADIE.
(Spoiler alert: i didn’t die)
When i was visiting relatives in Kansas there was a blizzard (Kansans may not have called that weather a true “blizzard”, but i’m from the West Coast. It was basically Antarctica). Without factoring in windchill, which i’m not exactly sure what means anyway, the temp was zero.
With the windchill – which thanks to google i just found out means what the temperature actually feels like to us because there is a cold wind on top of all the other cold stuff (so why don’t we just use that number instead? Huh, National Weather Service? WHY??) – it was 20 below zero.
TWENTY BELOW ZERO.
THAT ISN’T EVEN A THING.
i mean, zero isn’t really a number anyway..it’s nothing. And 20 below zero? You get that far below zero and it’s not a temperature anymore – it’s some kind of abstract mathmatical concept that my wee brain can’t compute. Or, maybe my wee brain couldn’t compute it because it was FROZEN like my entire face and any inch of skin that wasn’t covered as i ran/slipped/fell across parking lots trying desperately to get from car to building without DYING.
i remember standing in a Stop-n-Shop shivering uncontrollably and trying to get my frozen lips to actually form the words, “WHY DOES ANYONE LIVE HERE?” but luckily for me, by the time my face thawed enough to talk, my brain had caught up with me and i kept my inside voice inside, where it belongs, and not blurting out rude comments for the gun-toting local cow farmers.
i didn’t offend anyone THAT day, at least.
Come to think of it, i’ve survived a few crazy weather systems. There was that avalanche in the Oregon mountains that chased my dad and his snowmobile all the way to the bottom without my dad ever knowing it was right behind him. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t die either. But not through any effort of his own. He zoomed up to where we were waiting on the valley floor, huddled together in terror having just watched an avalanche chase him down a mountainside. Dad was grinning and clueless. “Did you see that?” he said, having no idea that what we had just seen was a guy get chased down a mountain BY the angry mountain itself and NOT DIE. Must be genetic.)
Flash forward a couple dozen years…
..and a tornado touched down in my hometown wreaking havoc in parking lots, flipping cars upside down and breaking windows. That wouldn’t be a big deal if we were in Kansas or even in a trailer park (since trailer parks, or “tornado-bait” as midwesterners call them, seem to get hit by tornadoes no matter where they are geographically) but we were in a mid-sized non-trailer park town in the Willamette Valley in Oregon where tornadoes are for tv reality shows. We don’t have tornadoes!! We don’t even know what to do during a tornado! There’s no required school drills that teach an Oregonian tornado-preparedness. Is it stop/drop/roll, stand in doorways, get under our desks and pray, or lock the doors/turn out the lights/shut off the cell phones?
WHY DIDN’T i EVER HAVE TORNADO PREPAREDNESS TRAINING???
So, up until now, my idea of “sandstorm” came directly from movies like The Mummy and Dune. i always pictured men in flowing robes gritting their teeth and covering their eyes, fighting for survival in zero visibility. And camels. Always with camels. Sometimes a giant worm too.
But in Vegas, there were no camels or giant worms, and i was in a comfortably air-conditioned room with a soft, squishy bed and cable tv, twenty-six stories high on the Strip when i experienced my first sandstorm.
It had been windy that day. In fact, it had been downright blustery at the pool. We had come out in our cute suits and coverups, but after an hour of Winne-the-Pooh-worthy wind gusts, we were wishing we had blankies and knitted hats. At the hour and a half mark, a loud whistle was blown three times, and the lifeguards – who are there basically to keep the drunks from drowning themselves in the 3 ft deep pools – dismounted from their stations and announced the pools were closed due to inclement weather.
Inclement weather? Vegas? In April? Despite the wind, we weren’t sure why the pools were closing, and grumbled all the way back to our rooms, Twenty-six stories up, where we got an opportunity to look out over the horizon and see EXACTLY why those super smart weather-checkers closed the pool when they did.
Looking out over the city, i first noticed the far off mountains had disappeared. After a few minutes, i could see that the darkness was MOVING and a giant wall of what looked like swirling sand was coming right for us.
IT WAS JUST LIKE IN THE MUMMY!!!
i freaked. The Man thought it was cool and pulled up a chair to watch the approaching mummy/sand storm. i didn’t know what to do but i was pretty sure sitting by a wall of glass windows was NOT the suggested procedure when a fifty story wall of sand and possibly a mummy (or a giant worm) is coming for you.
After much begging and pleading, i convinced him to at least leave the room with me and go downstairs to the casino, which i guessed was more or less the center of the building and as low as we could go, to hunker down and wait out the storm.
And play a few machines.
And drink a margarita or two.
i mean..while we were there anyway…
The next day, damage from the storm was evident everywhere. The news showed photos of flipped semi’s and downed powerlines. At the casino, windows had been broken (SEE????) and the pool was a disaster area. i guess those life guards knew there stuff.
So, i’m beginning to think it might be me.
In one short lifetime, i’ve been in electrical storms, sand storms, tornadoes and even an avalanche. If you count catching falling ash on my tongue when Mt. St. Helen’s blew, being rudely woken when an earthquake with an epicenter just 20 miles away rocked my house, and staying inland when the Japanese tsunami hit, then the only thing i’m missing out on is a hurricane. And raining frogs.
Crap. Did i just say that out loud??