Spate of severe weather sends Susan down to the basement

Susan Manzke
Susan witnessed the tornado from her kitchen window. The V shape would have been straight west from her house. (See arrow.)

By now, everyone has heard about the tornado that came down in northern Outagamie County on August 10th. At least, it was on the news. Locally, it continues to be the topic of conversation. Today, I’m going to share one minor account, mine.

The afternoon was hot and humid. Not a leaf fluttered in the nonexistent breeze. I checked the weather at noon. The worst of the storms were heading for the Madison area. That news made me worry about my family who live there.

On the radar, a narrow blue line of showers was heading in my direction. Nothing much to speak about. Still, I was happy when my three hens headed for their roost early and I could lock them up for the night. At least, I wouldn’t have to worry about where they went when the storm arrived.

Before rain fell, I took my dog Sunny out for a quick potty walk. The poor guy is going deaf, but even he started fidgeting when the dark clouds showed.

From my seat in the kitchen. I could see out a window to the west.

That line of blue on the weather radar had morphed into reds and yellows. The lightning produced an odd thunder that echoed around the farm. Hail was now in the weather report so I put my car in the shed.

Susan shows the weather radar during the second storm.

At the kitchen table, I noticed an odd V-shaped cloud directly west. It seemed to have dipped down from the moving bank of clouds. I had seen innocent clouds like that before, ones masquerading as a tornado, so I looked closely at it.

About the time I figured it was a tornado a warning alert sounded, first the radio weather band and then my cell phone.

I called to my pets. My dog Sunny was ready to follow me to the basement as was Car-E my cat. Cruella my other house cat was nowhere to be seen. Even if she came up to me, Cruella wouldn’t let me carry her. I guessed that she had gone into hiding.

My cell phone was in my pocket. That was my only contact with the outside world. I hadn’t thought to grab my laptop or landline phone. What I had seen was too close and could very well be heading my way.

This old farmhouse has a thick stone basement. Still, I looked for a doorway to stand under.

As I stood there, I looked around. The pipe to the septic was above me. Ummm. Poor choice. If the house came apart, and I survived, I didn’t want to be covered in crud.

I moved across the basement and stood by the freezer.

The home phone upstairs was ringing. I could hear it announce that my daughter Rebecca was calling.

I picked up my cell phone to message her. That’s when I realized I had left my bifocals on the kitchen table. The small print on the phone was almost impossible to read. Somehow, I managed to type BASEMENT so she knew where I was.

Rebecca called my cell and stayed with me while the tornado weather passed.

I couldn’t get my cell to give me a current broadcast but I could hear the weather reports come through the phone from Rebecca’s house.

There was no chair in the basement. I looked around and considered finding something I could sit on. In the end, I kept leaning on the freezer for support.

This photo illustration shot by Susan's daughter Rebecca is a recreation of Susan hunkering down in the basement during the second storm joined by Car-E the cat and Sunny the dog.

As I waited, I listened to hear if any of my house was coming apart above me. The possibility of that happening made me nervous. Good thing Rebecca stayed on the cell phone with me.

Thirty minutes later, the weather improved and I could leave the basement. The house was there as were my trees, except for a few branches. An inch of rain had fallen, soaking the area.

The very next day, as I write, I’m in the basement again. Another storm is passing overhead. This time I grabbed my laptop so I can work. I have my glasses on and brought a chair down earlier. I even managed to remember to take the landline phone. The last thing I need for my storm hiding place is a good flashlight. That remains next to my chair upstairs. Good thing it is daylight and I have power.

Later I heard reports others were not as lucky as me, but at least no one in the area was hurt.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;