A Close Call: Five Tornadoes Touch Down in Grand Rapids

Trees DownLast Saturday our city’s emergency alarm system started to wail and our cell phones were abeep with warnings to take cover because a tornado had touched down and was heading our way. It was raining lightly, but the sky wasn’t dark with that threatening greenish glower I associate with a “tornado” sky.

Nevertheless, we sat quietly (and prayerfully) on chairs in our storage room and waited. Soon news came that more than one tornado had touched down, and the warning period was extended. It was hard to feel very frightened without external confirmation of what might be coming, but I’m one of those who hug the mountain side of the road, so I stayed downstairs until the “all clear” was given an hour later. Alan, on the other hand—exhausted from his morning’s outdoor work—decided to ignore the wailing and went upstairs to take a nap.  Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 5In the cellar, I thought back to my first experience with a tornado, which occurred when I was about six. My family was visiting my grandmother’s farm on the vast prairies of eastern Colorado. I knew all about Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, so when my uncles shouted that a twister was coming across the prairie heading straight for us, we all scrambled down into their dark, dank storage cellar…a place I’d never venture into uncompelled. That day, the twister missed our farm, and I felt very relieved that I hadn’t been carried off to somewhere over the rainbow (or worse).  Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 6My latest experience with a tornado was reading a children’s book to my grandchildren last week…a book based on a true story about a little boy who lived in a trailer park, where a tornado turned his family’s trailer into a trail of bent metal while his baby sister was asleep in her crib. After the tornado passed, the family ran everywhere, desperately searching for any signs of their baby, and by a miracle of grace they found her still safely asleep in her crib at the edge of the local ball diamond!

Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 11The GR tornadoes never struck our home, and our electricity didn’t even go out, so it almost seemed like a false alarm.Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 9 It wasn’t until we went to church the next morning that I knew how close we’d come to being hit. Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 1One of our friends said they heard on the weather station that a tornado had touched down just a mile from our house and was headed toward our lake. Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 7For some reason, it lifted before it reached us. Thank you, Lord! Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 8(Yes, I was praying, but I’ll bet a lot of people whose property was damaged
were also praying.) Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 3Yesterday afternoon I drove through the area close to our home that had been impacted, and although there were trees down everywhere,
not a single home had been harmed. Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 2In fact, in all five of the tornadoes, there had been mostly tree damage,
and not a single report of any person being injured!   🙂

Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 4Our “friendly neighborhood tornado” had uprooted massive trees, but in the most precise way so that they fell into the streets, across yards, or over fields. It reminded me of a father who’d given his children a stern warning but hadn’t spanked them!  Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016I’ve had a swirl of thoughts since then. For one thing, we can’t always tell by present circumstances what the future will hold, but I think we’d be wise to listen to our authorities, and for me, the most authoritative source of information about our future is the Bible, which tells us how to prepare for the inevitability of of our physical body dying. For another thing, God’s ways are higher than ours, and we can’t really fathom what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. Like a tornado, God is a God of great power, but like the five tornadoes that hit GR over the weekend, God is also full of mercy. So often he protects us from the storms, but sometimes he takes us through the storms. Both ways, He is a God of love. He loves us, and he works all things together for our good. If only we could grasp that fully!  Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 10And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).

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