CLINE: Trying to weather the storm

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

After Friday night’s weather, I can say one thing for certain about the city of Sugar Hill: Your sirens work.

I didn't realize it, but I live near two of the city's seven weather sirens, which I heard loud and clear during last week's storms. Those alerts, combined with the dire predictions by the local TV forecasters made for a fun Friday that included some time spent in a closet. (More on that later).

It felt like old times for me. (The tornadoes, I mean. Not hiding in the closet). Having grown up in the flatlands of Illinois, tornadoes were a way of life. We had tornado drills at school, and it seemed like we had to head to the basement at least once a month when the warnings (accompanied by the local sirens) came.

The thought of a tornado ransacking our town kept my mom on edge. She likes to tell of the time she anxiously insisted to my dad that it was time to take refuge in the basement right that instance. She would discuss it no further. Having made her emphatic point, she hurriedly made her way downstairs only to hear my dad say: "Forget something?" as he nodded toward me and my sister still sitting in the living room.

The basement in the home I grew up in was what you'd call unfinished. It could also be called dank, dark and uninviting. I didn't care much for it in good weather, let alone bad. So when the inevitable monthly tornado warning came, the trip to the basement was as disagreeable as the weather itself. As a kid, it was hard to decide what was worse -- dying in the high winds or from the boredom that came with any prolonged stay in that crummy basement.

Patience was not my virtue. Still isn't, Friday's weather confirmed.

Waiting out a storm in the basement is no longer a problem for me, the lack of a basement alleviating that concern. But I found that though the coat closet that served as a safe haven is both cleaner and much more cramped than the basement. The waiting game was no better. The dog seemed to agree.

Neither of us would have ventured into those close quarters had my significant other not insisted. She apparently has a thing about howling winds, whirring sirens and talking heads who insist that the "tornadic activity" seems headed directly for our back porch. But after a few minutes of confinement, the dog and I could take no more.

So the two of us left the safety of the closet (note to self: some spring cleaning should be done to it before the next storm) to investigate. We heard the wind, saw the rain and some leaves that had been rustled, but no carnage. Unless you count the mostly eaten pizza that served as dinner earlier in the night.

Don Kelemen, community relations director for Sugar Hill, said the city has received good feedback about the sirens. Because of the direction and the strength of the wind, he said there were reports of the Sugar Hill sirens being heard at the Mall of Georgia. Try finding a basement there.

Kelemen said the sirens are "mostly for people outside" like at Gary Pirkle Park or at the Sugar Hill Golf Club so that they know bad weather is coming. He said they are triggered by the national weather service via satellite and that their purpose is to signal an alert, not necessarily that a tornado is imminent.

"Basically, when the siren goes off it's telling you to turn on the TV and check things out," Kelemen said.

He made no mention of going straight to the closet. Or staying there for a prolonged time.

I was not amused. Neither, it turns out, was the dog.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.