We were walking around the mall, looking for ice cream, when a security guard scurried past us.
"Do you know about the tornado warning?" she barked over her shoulder.
"No," I stammered, temporarily distracted from my search for Blue Sky Creamery.
"We're moving everyone into the storm shelter now. This way. Everyone move this way." She motioned to us and the bystanders near the stairs. "Let's go!"
The kids, flocked around Corey and me like so many little ducklings, started to quack. "Mom, did she say tornado? Is a tornado headed toward us? What are we going to do?"
Corey and I exchanged glances. Neither of us wanted to spend the next who-knows-how-many minutes in a mall storm shelter with four young children, especially since it was almost bedtime.
It was the fastest decision we ever made.
"Let's go," we said in almost unison, and we herded the kids up the stairs, past the stores where employees were shutting gates and locking up and urging the crowds to "get to the storm shelter, there's a tornado warning, everyone's closing, let's go."
We got to the exit. The sky was dark, unnaturally dark for 8:30 on a summer night. But it wasn't raining yet and the sirens weren't ominous and no one could hear the sound of a rushing train.
We ran for the car, avoiding fat raindrops that were starting to fall.
"What's happening? Where are we going? Are we going to get hit by a tornado, Mom?" The kids were buzzing with nervous energy.
"I don't know, guys. Give us a few minutes to find out." And then, under my breath, "I can't believe I don't know what's going on."
This is a certified weather geeks worst nightmare -- not knowing the parameters of an approaching storm.
Corey turned on the radio. I called up the radar on my Blackberry. A quick perusal of both told us we were safe to head east, toward home, since the storm was still to our west.
By the time we hit the freeway, the streetlights were on. The rain started to fall in earnest. lightning crackled across the sky. Several times, the light flashed so bright and so close, I involuntarily gasped.
My pace quickened -- although not in a bad way. I love storms, and while I know I should apologize for the crazy, I just can't. Storms thrill me and mesmerize me and make me stand in awe of the Creator God who controls it all.
The radio told us of one, maybe two, confirmed tornado sightings in communities near us. Corey and I craned our necks, looking for rotation that might be illuminated by the stabs of light. We couldn't see anything but rain and an inky black sky.
It was an odd sensation to be on the freeway, amongst hundreds of other cars, when you know a tornado might be on the ground just a few miles away. I doubt any of our fellow drivers were ignorant of the storm. There were too many emergency vehicles careening about, too much rain, too much darkness to think this was just another garden-variety thunderstorm.
Still, there were all were, driving around, doing the most normal thing on earth during the most abnormal of times.
Just as we pulled off the freeway at our exit, the wind started to blow. Sheets of rain darted across the road like veils of gauze. A frenzy of leaves and branches were ripped from the trees, which were being pushed and pulled in a mad dance. We opened the garage door, pulled in and shut the garage door in one fluid motion. I was so thankful we switched from satellite to cable last year; our satellite could never sustain a signal during bad storms (which is the time you need it the most).
I instinctively turned on our local NBC station as soon as I got inside. I interned at KARE-11 multiple times when I was in college, so of course, I'm loyal. But KARE is also the station my family watched when I was growing up in the Twin Cities. For that reason alone, I always turn to KARE when I need a dose of comfort during a stressful situation.
Tornadoes were popping up all around us. Most were north of our home. Then came a report of a wall cloud within a mile or so of the mall we just left. Then a confirmed sighting of a funnel cloud just down the road. Corey and I took turns standing at the window, trying to see through the curtain of rain. Nothing. "Just my luck," I groaned. "Tornadoes everywhere, and it's too dark for me to see the rotation."
Slowly, the storm passed. The kids settled down. I fed the baby and checked Twitter. The TV was muted.
And Corey passed out Popsicles, since we never did find that ice cream shop at the mall.