Portfolio: Tornado Warning

This piece was written for my Techniques of Media Writing class at Gardner-Webb University in the fall of 2011. It is a creative nonfiction piece.


“Ooooooooooooooowaaaaaaaaaaaap!!! Oooooooooooooooooooooowaaaaaaap!!!”  Half a dozen or so girls in their individual rooms on the top floor of the old brick dormitory stopped what they were doing as the emergency alert system wailed. They each strained to hear the message that they knew would follow.  The mechanical voice whined throughout campus, but it was muffled at best through the heavy rain and blustery wind.  “Ooooooooooooooowaaaaaaaaaaaap!!! Oooooooooooooooooooooowaaaaaaap!!!”  The alert gave way to an eerie silence.  One by one, the puzzled girls hesitantly opened their doors and peeked into the hallway.

“What did it say?”

“I dunno.  Hey Amy, Could you understand it?”


They all looked at each other quizzically.

“Of course Melissa isn’t here,” one girl quipped after she checked the RA’s door.


Somewhere a phone vibrated.  A few more beeped, alerting their owners to an incoming message from University Police.  “Tornado warning until 5:45.  Seek shelter now.”

As if on cue, the RA’s from first and second floor appeared on the scene and quickly took control of the situation.

Sarah, a loud and spirited girl bellowed, “All right y’all!  Everyone down to the first floor bathroom!!! NOW!!!”

“But I have to go to work!  Am I not allowed to go to work?”

“I’m going to say ‘no,’” Sara replied.  “Let’s go ladies!”

Unsure of how long they’d be gone, a few of the girls grabbed some books and notes and several others grabbed their computers and began the decent down two flights of stairs to first floor.

The posse that traipsed down certainly was a sight to behold.  Girls of all different shapes, sizes and styles—some in their pajamas, others dressed up from classroom observations and still others dressed for the gym.

The brightly lit, hot and humid first floor bathroom was already crowded.  The girls surveyed the situation.  Knowing that they would likely be stuck here for at least half an hour, many of them opted to plop down on the floor.  Still others nervously eyed the floor and opted to lean up against a wall or the sink.  Not everyone fit, so some sat along the wall in the hall directly outside of the bathroom.

Sarah stepped in the bathroom and surveyed the situation.  “Awwwwwww! Aren’t y’all precious!  Smile for a picture,” she gushed as she took out her cell phone to snap a picture.  “One. Twooo. Three!  Awesome! Y’all are just too cute.  This is totes deff going on Facebook.”

“Ugh! My phone doesn’t have any service! I’ve tried to send this text three times and it won’t send.  Hey Jeanie, does your phone have service?”  Amy asked.

“Yeah,” I responded.

“Can I text my mom from your phone to let her know what’s going on?”


Amy took my phone and attempted to figure out how to text on it.  After several minutes of trying to figure out how to send a message, she looked at me in frustration and confusion.

“The message icon is in the dock on the bottom, right hand corner of the screen.  Press that, then press the button in the very top, right hand corner of the screen.  It should look like a square with a pencil in it.  Enter your mom’s phone number in the ‘to’ field and then type your message in the little rounded box.  Does that help?”

“Yup.  Your phone is too complicated!”

Country music floated from one corner of the bathroom, where a girl was playing music from her cell phone.  Laughter rang out from the other side of the room.  Everywhere you looked, girls were talking, studying and carrying on.

A tall, lanky girl burst into the bathroom.  She was wearing tennis shoes, black athletic pants and a gray Batman hoodie (complete with batman ears) with the hood up.  Her sweatshirt bore the evidence of the torrential downpour outside.

“Heeeeeey Giiiirl!   How are you girl?” She asked a friend of hers.  “Alisha, where are you? I want my food!”

She looked around and didn’t see her friend.  “Where’d she go? She’s got my food!  She betta not have run off wit my food!”

Her friend peeked in the bathroom from the other side.  “Girl. I’m right here! Come get your food!”

One girl checked the area forecast on her phone.  “So, a tornado has touched down in Cleveland County, a few miles north of school.”  She continued scouring Weather.com to find out more information regarding the storm system.

“Well, this isn’t exactly how I planned my afternoon to go,” quipped one girl.

“I know, right?  I’m going to be so late for work!” another said.

“Hey Sarah, do you have any idea how long we’ll be in here?” yet another asked.


“Well, then can I go back to my room and get my computer so that I can work on my Western Civ project?”

“You can go after Megan gets back and Lauren goes and gets back.  We’re only letting y’all leave one at a time,” Sarah replied.

A few minutes passed of laid back chatter and, at times boisterous laughter as the girls embraced the situation and made the best of being stuck in the bathroom.  Finally, University Police sent out a new text message saying that the tornado warning had expired, but that a tornado watch was in effect until midnight.

“Alright ladies.  I guess you can go.  But be safe.  Don’t do anything dumb!” Sarah announced.

The girls all collected their things, stood up and slowly dispersed back to their rooms.

“Well, that was fun!”

“Certainly wasn’t expected.”

When the third floor girls reached their rooms, they scurried around, making up for lost time.  Several, including myself, debated about the safety of driving to work in the messy weather.  The sky was still an eerie gray green color and the rain was coming down in sideways sheets.

I finished changing into my uniform, donned my coat and grabbed my umbrella off of my hook.

“Well, I’m going to go ahead and go on into work,” I said.  “I’m already going to be thirty minutes late and I’m closing manager tonight.  I really can’t afford to be any later.”

“I can’t believe they’re making you come to work in this weather,” said one girl.

“Be safe! If you die, it will be all Chick-fil-A’s fault!  I will personally call corporate and complain.  I will make them name the next sandwich after you!” Amy said.

“Thanks, friend,” I sighed.  “That’s so comforting.  If I die, at least it was in the pursuit of chicken and at least I will have the next chicken sandwich named after me.  And on that note, I’m leaving.  I’ll text you when I get to work to let you know I got there safely.  Bye y’all!”