So, anyway: Part of why I stopped where I did was trying to figure out chronology. I'm not sure of what time I got home; what happened before the sirens started, what happened after. I remember eating dinner -- Marie Callender's fettucine Alfredo, with chicken and broccoli -- while standing in front of the TV watching the Channel 25 meterologist talk about the shear markers showing up on radar just across the county line, and starting to eat faster as it became clear I might very soon have to put the food down and head for shelter. (I also remember wondering in the back of my head whether eating just before a possible tornado was actually such a good idea...)
Pretty much the moment they called it on TV I went into the bedroom to catch the weather radio as it went off. I think there was about 10 or 15 seconds' difference. I don't remember taking the plate in with me; either that was when I set it down on top of the microwave -- or just before I got it out of the microwave and started eating like a madman. Obviously I'd prefer to think I didn't spend valuable time while the sirens were going off eating...
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORT WORTH TX
1220 AM CDT SAT MAY 6 2006
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN FORT WORTH HAS ISSUED A
* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
CENTRAL MCLENNAN COUNTY IN NORTH CENTRAL TEXAS
* UNTIL 115 AM CDT
* AT 1216 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
DEVELOPING TORNADO 7 MILES NORTHWEST OF MCGREGOR...MOVING EAST AT
* THE TORNADO IS EXPECTED TO BE NEAR...
WOODWAY BY 1240 AM
WACO BY 1245 AM
BEVERLY HILLS BY 1250 AM
BELLMEAD AND LACY-LAKEVIEW BY 1255 AM
NORTHCREST BY 100 AM
HALLSBURG BY 115 AM
TAKE COVER IN A BASEMENT...OR ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF YOUR HOME IN AN
INTERIOR CLOSET OR BATHROOM. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS FOR COVER.
IN ADDITION TO TORNADOES...LARGE HAIL TO GOLFBALL SIZE AND DAMAGING
WINDS TO 60 MPH ARE LIKELY WITH THIS STORM.
A TORNADO WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 500 AM SATURDAY MORNING FOR
NORTH CENTRAL TEXAS.
So I had around 20 minutes before things got really hairy. I called the Trib newsroom first thing, to make sure the copy editors still there knew about the warning (I don't think the sirens had gone off just yet) and got them headed down to the room designated for shelter (there was some debate afterward, I later found out -- that room, the large meeting room downstairs, has an outside wall (though no windows). One of the maintenance chiefs says the safest place is right under the press -- which rationally might be so, but I'd still be nervous).
Next I considered the fact that I was in an upstairs apartment. Running downstairs into the pouring rain and pounding on the door of a neighbor I barely knew (and didn't know whether they were home)? If they were home and willing to take me in, it would be much safer; if they weren't home, how much time would I have wasted finding out they weren't home before taking my own measures? And there was Dinsdale, my cat, to consider: wrestling him into the cat carrier, getting him downstairs, don't know how he'll react to their two cats or the other cats to him --
Other neighbor -- the one across the areaway I'd been chatting with an hour earlier about the weather. Did she know about the warning? I went out, pounded on her door. After a moment, she appeared, clutching a pillow to herself. She knew. (The sirens were going off by then.)
Back inside, deciding I'll stick it out in here. Into the bedroom, grab the boombox -- note that the antenna's busted, damn -- look at the mattress, decide there's no way I'm going to be able to wrestle that into the bathroom. Retrieve Dinsdale from under the bed. Dinsdale, it turns out, most emphatically does not want to be held. I get him into the bathroom and close the door. Back to bedroom, grab pillows. Back to bathroom, open door trying not to let Dinsdale out, toss pillows through door, close door. Couch: Grab cushions off couch. Open door, throw cushions through, close door. Try to remember if I have a regular radio other than the boombox with the busted antenna. Not where I can find it easily, and probably without batteries. Gah. Grab a bottled water to take in with me, for no sensible reason I can now discern.
In the bathroom, Dinsdale has settled in the bathtub already. I get in, trying to arrange pillows around me and cushions on top; discover it would be a better idea if I got into the tub the other way, without the faucet jabbing me in the back. (Which tells you how often I use the tub as a tub, rather than as a shower stall.) Rearrange things, turn on the radio, find no station on either FM or AM not playing either music or a syndicated talk show. (This was also the subject of some discussion afterward. Seems there were no humans manning radio stations at that hour. The arrangements they had made for bad weather failed when -- but I'm getting ahead of myself.)
Get out, head into the living room, turn the TV volume up as loud as it will go, head back into the bathroom leaving the door open a crack (Dinsdale has settled down by now and is sitting calmly in the bathtub cushion-cave. He just wants to be where I am, and all is well). Around 12:40 now. Sit in the bathtub, trying to work out how to arrange myself so my head is under cushions and not sitting on top of a nice hard bathtub lip if something falls on me. My heart is beating faster, but I'm not that scared. Not really, really scared.
Not until the lights go out.
(Another cliffhanger, I'm afraid; I have to go to work now. I'll try to make the interval to part 3 less than a week this time...)