Wednesday was very likely to be on the scariest days of my life. I check the weather on my way to work. They were forecasting thunderstorms to begin around 1 o'clock... nap time at preschool. Fun... I have several little ones who are quite afraid of thunderstorms. Many who could care less, but a few who are afraid. So I was not looking forward to crying, terrified children waking up from their much needed naps.
One o'clock rolled around and no storms came. However, the Pre-K teacher assistant informed us that we were under a tornado watch. Being in New England, tornado watches come on occasion, but we never get tornadoes. Ever. But, just to be safe we reviewed the emergency plans for the school. The plan was to be aware of the weather (the director and mentor teacher were listening to the weather radio) and when the watch got upgraded to a warning, we would move from the classrooms to our "evacuation" place in the stairwell to the basement. At this point, we were light-hearted about it. The mentor teacher was running around saying "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!" and said it was okay to take the kids outside to play - just come in if we saw cows flying by. (For the record, I didn't take my kids outside. Storms can come on fast! Keep reading). I did, however, text Danny on my break to make sure he was home from walking from the bus. Westfield (where we live) was under a warning before Springfield (where I work) was.
Around about 3:30 when I go back to my own classroom after floating for breaks, it started storming. Bear in mind, this is my first week that I'm "allowed" to be in the classroom by myself (Complicated situation. Needed to be licensed in the state of Massachusetts, needed 3 months experience, etc etc etc) so I was a little nervous. I managed to keep my little kiddos under control though. Once the thunderstorms started, many parents picked up their kids so by 4 o'clock I only three children left. Two boys who were playing an imagination game about African safaris and my little girl was snuggled up in the quiet space with her blankie to hide from the storm. After one of the boys went home, I took them to the classroom next door where there were more kids to play with, and so I could clean up everyone's snack dishes.
And then fun began!
We got no advance warning before we got word that a tornado was on the ground in Springfield. The teacher from the downstairs preschool room ran up and yelled to us that a tornado was on the ground in Springfield, so we immediately evacuated the classroom and moved to the stairwell. (Which is the best place in our school - central, below ground, no windows)
All the children were safe and entertained, although many of the parents were exceptionally late, mostly due to traffic. We were able to take the kids back upstairs at 5:30 (end of my workday). From our vantage point, it looked like not much happen. However, traffic was horrible (the cause of most of the delay in parents picking up their kids) so we knew something must be up. While there was no damage to the school, there was a lot of damage to nearby areas, and some of the students' homes. Everyone is safe; everyone I know anyways.
On my way home from work, I hit crazy rain (thankfully not much traffic.) Called my dad and my sister, who were also having crazy storms up in Maine. Found out when I pulled into my yard that there had been a possible tornado on the highway right after I had driven across. Most terrifying thing I've ever heard in my life.
The damage in Springfield, Westfield, Monson and surrounding areas is devastating. I'm just thankful that no one I love and care about was effected.