hurricanes on the ice – tornados in the sky

 the weather had been the buzz all day yesterday, tuesday, february 5th. strong storms were going to roll into the nashville area – but when?

“after midnight,” bossman told me as we rode up to the Sommet Center to watch our Predators take on the Carolina Hurricanes. he assured me that the storms weren’t going to be in the area until we were home and close to our FamilySafe tornado shelter( http://www.familysafeshelters.com/existing.html)  in the garage.

wrong!

we arrived in nashville for a 5:30 meeting at the convention center, with about 2,000 other season ticket holders, to hear what commissioner gary bettman, owner representative david freeman, general manager david poile and the president of business operations ed lang had to say about the future of our franchise.

GNASH, our mascot was in attendance, pete weber was the m.c. and handed out prizes while waiting for the panel to arrive. the atmosphere was lively and friendly. bettman was very off-the-cuff with his statements and answers to questions. the meeting was off-the-record with the tennessean’s john glennon just standing, holding a legal pad and quiet pencil. standing ovations were generously given. poile spilled the beans about the speculation about forsberg coming back to the preds. “He’s passing.” so be it. we don’t need him.

the meeting ended at 6:30 when we were instructed to go through the double doors and enter the underground tunnel which would take us under Broadway to the Sommet Center. some people chose to leave via a side door to the outside. we went through the tunnel and into the arena, picked up a piece of pizza and a soda and headed to our seats.

the first thing we always look at inside the rink, is the crowd. it was filling in nicely. the family that sits in the row in front of us were there. mom, dad, meghan 8, a.j. 5, and allison 1 year. the ‘beer guy’ was next to me with a buddy. the ‘two funny big-mouth guys’ were next to them and on the other side of bossman was the ‘dad-guy’ with his pre-teen son and two friends. everyone said ‘hi’ to each other, the ‘big-mouth guys’ shared peanuts with a.j., the ‘beer-guy’ wanted to know if i brought him a piece of pizza and the ‘dad-guy’ asked if we’d like a beer. we’re a weird little family up there in section 114, rows O and P, seats 1 – 10, respectively.

the crowd in the rest of the arena totaled almost 14,000 – all with weird little families of their own.

pregame stuff went on as usual. GNASH on his four-wheeler, t-shirts were scudded through the air, jumbo-tron craziness to rouse the crowd and a national anthem singer who did a fine job until she tried to jazz it up and instead checked it into the boards.

then our daughter texted us from home with updated news on locations and ETA’s of storms and tornadoes, including the fact that 15 had touched down since the beginning of the deadly line of super cells.

the crowd wasn’t 100% in the game. they were on cell phones, distracted by weather updates. with 11:24 remaining in the first period, darcy hordichuk got the attention of the preoccupied cell phone users by getting five-for-fighting, which got the crowd back into the game which helped to energize the team.

that’s my opinion, anyway.

going into the third period the score was 0 – 0, with verizon closing in on a win.

about half-way into the last period, the refs all gathered in the center of the ice. shortly after the announcement of a tornado warning… fans remain in their seats – the game would continue. some people chose to leave at that point while others cheered. then we scored with 11:59 left and the bad weather dissipated for a moment or two. another announcement with about 11 seconds left, asking that the crowd remain where you are and do not to leave the building. they would let us know when they were given the all-clear. more people left their seats.

the game was over, the three stars were announced the team raised their sticks to the crowd and the band started playing. people were sharing information they were getting from family that were home glued to the weather channel and local news channels. our daughter was in the shelter with our neighbor, plus two dogs.

another announcement. please remain calm and in an orderly manner go to a safer place…underground tunnel…let you know when it’s safe to return home…

everyone around us disappeared except the family in front of us. we helped them with their kids and together we melted into the thousands of others who were trying to get to the underground tunnel.  our exodus was blocked by people stopping at concession stands trying to get that last beer or hot-dog, or people watching one of the many televisions in the concourse that were showing replays or weather news or even worse, people just staring out the 4 or 5 story glass front of the Sommet Center at the lightning waiting for the funnels to appear from behind the BellSouth building. people were coming down staircases and escalators into the flood of people.  i hoped we’d get away from the glass wall with the kids and into the safety of solidness soon. it seemed to take forever, but we snaked into an area where we felt safe, made sure the family of five was together and turned to watch the weather on the news. we we turned back around, they were gone.

soon, security moved all of us out of the main concourse and into an area that led to the tunnel. bossman is claustrophobic and refused to enter the hallway. we decided to sit in a doorway of a meeting room off the hallway that led to the tunnel and convention center and many others joined us.

finally, the all clear. everyone filed out of the building and into the warm muggy air. sirens started to blow. people looked skyward. it was only the all clear signal – we hoped.

the roads were empty with the exception of hockey fans leaving nashville. very few cars were on the highways and side roads. no obvious damage – just a few puddles.  at home, daughter and our neighbor were watching the news. now, we knew what was going on in living color. tragedy struck all around the state. we had a few bands of rain and a little lightning until around 1:30am. i went outside to see what mother nature had in mind for us as we were slated to be in direct path of a tornado at 1:40am. the shelter was waiting steps away. lightning surrounded us, a gentle wind blew and clouds raced through the night sky. then the sirens went off and we were in the shelter. four adults and two dogs. we have small fold-up chairs and provisions, lights, a weather tv and dog provisions. we closed the door, bolted both bolts and waited. was that thunder? the tv says it’s headed right at us. waiting… waiting… it’s gone north of us. is it safe to leave? after about 15 or 20 minutes bossman leaves and checks the living room tv. it’s safe for us – for now.

after 2am, our neighbor and her little dog go sleepily back to her home. our daughter is still sitting in the shelter with her dog on her lap. we finally convince her it’s safe and we all go to bed, exhausted, saddened by the news reports of deaths and damage, and grateful for being spared and having our tornado shelter.

oh, and i almost remember seeing a hockey game.

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