A few hours ago my friend, fellow recent graduate Sara Sidery and I drove to get ice cream at the Chocolate Moose. It was sunny out and there was a light breeze, a perfect day for ice cream.
As we ordered our hot fudge sundaes with brownies, nuts and sprinkles, we noticed the sky start to darken ominously. It was around 5:30 p.m. We were driving in Sara’s jeep back to my apartment when she turned to me and asked, “Have you ever been in a tornado before?”
Just as I said no, we turned onto Indiana Avenue and saw the gentle breezes become violent winds. Branches began to fall. On the corner of Kirkwood and Indiana Avenues, the tables outside of Noodles and Company were blown into the streets.
We spotted one of them in front of Sample Gates. People who were strolling casually down the sidewalks suddenly began running in a panic.
Were we in the midst of the Apocalypse? The Rapture didn’t happen as planned on May 21, maybe this was it. It was getting closer to 6 p.m.Sara and I held hands and said Hail Marys.
We checked the weather report on Sara’s phone and it said 77 degrees, severe thunderstorms. Sara and I sped in her Jeep through the empty streets, dodging falling tree branches. When we got back to my apartment, we had a glass of water to calm our nerves.
A few more gusts of wind rattled my windows. The power went out. Sara and I decided to drive around and see the damage the storm caused.
There was an uprooted tree on the corner of Seventh and Dunn Streets that claimed a streetlight and the hood of a red Dodge Neon in its wake.
Bloomington resident Nick Mortara stood on his front porch as the rain continued. He sipped a cup of coffee from a striped mug and observed as sirens blared in the distance and onlookers whipped out their cell phone cameras to take pictures.
He and a co-worker, Austin Mason, recounted seeing the falling tree that now took up Mortara’s entire front yard.
The two were hanging out and watching the movie “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“I remember the wind getting sucked out of my house,” Mortara said.
Mason ran out to the porch. “The wind looked solid,” he said, as the tree in front of the Chabad House, across the street, toppled over. He said it was around 5:45 p.m. when that happened. The flickering streetlight destroyed by the tree shut off.
Sara and I left Nick on his porch and continued to drive around. On the radio, newscasters tried to make sense of the 20-minute destruction that had spread from 10th Street to Russell Road, on the outskirts of town.
A song played, “You’re the One That I Want” from “Grease” featuring the lyric: “The power is multiplyin’ / It’s electrifyin’!”
There was another fallen tree directly in front of Grant Street Inn. A police officer directed traffic away from a blocked road on Ninth and Washington Streets. Sirens were distant.
We veered down Fourth Street, seeing ripped tents and overturned tables throughout the various ethnic restaurants. At Siam House, a Thai food restaurant on the corner of Fourth and Dunn Streets, a tree collapsed the back roof.
The restaurant behind it, Thai A Roy D. Kitchen, had its patio and benches demolished by a tree. The whole scene was blocked off by caution tape.
Bloomington Fire Department Deputy Chief Terry Williams pulled up in a marked SUV to survey the scene. In the past hour there were at least 50 calls made to him concerning damages, he said.
At Thai A Roy D. Kitchen, the employees were still inside. Several of them huddled together, trying to describe how the tree destroyed the patio. The power had already been out, and thankfully, no customers were dining at the time.
“Flash, then boom, then the tree snapped,” said one employee, making a slow wave motion with her hand to demonstrate how the tree fell.
The restaurant opened February 2010, said employee Bask Tingsabhat. He tried to reach the landlord, who may or may not be out of town. No damage costs have been estimated yet.
Tingsabhat looked out at the benches through a crack in the patio door, as if afraid to step out into the heavy rain.
“I just never thought this tree would fall,” he said. “It was so sturdy.”
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