"Don't worry about the tornado warnings on the TV," said my stepson as we arrived in Omaha. "My boss says there hasn't been a tornado touch down here in 30 years."

That gave me great comfort later when I was awakened by what sounded to me like air raid sirens and a phone call from the hotel management.

"Come down to our shelter on the ground floor or take cover in your bathroom," said the voice.

Really?

My husband and I looked outside. Sheets of rain poured across the parking lot, and there was plenty of thunder and lightning, but it didn't look like a tornado to me.

In the "Wizard of Oz" it was a huge funnel and lots of things were whirling around inside of it including cows and witches. I wasn't frightened.

I wasn't even sure we needed to get dressed, much less trek on down to the first floor. I didn't want to appear overly excitable.

Then the sirens went off again and emergency vehicles with flashing red lights pulled up to our hotel.

"OK," I told Marc. "Let's be mature about this and do what we've been told to do."

We changed out of our nightclothes and picked up our carry-on luggage and headed downstairs, mostly to see what was up.

In the lobby we found people who had ripped their small children out of bed, wrapped them in blankets and reported to the laundry room/tornado shelter as directed. We found a small group of chaperones with the soccer team — in town for a championship game — huddled in the corner.

We felt a bit ashamed of our lackadaisical attitude until a police officer came over and said we could all go back to bed.

"We think the worst is over," he said. "We'll alert you if things change, because there is more severe weather coming."

"Did we really have a tornado?" I asked, looking around at the safe, warm lobby area.

"We don't know yet. We think so but no one was ever really in danger except those on the fifth and sixth floors," he said.

Not to worry. Our room was 501.

The next day, still intact, we drove out to find church services. Along the way, we passed roads littered with leaves and stoplights without power.

When we pulled up to the church building, there were only three cars in the parking lot. There were also a number of splintered trees cluttering the lawn.

Assuming we had the time wrong, we got out to ask about meeting schedules.

"Church is canceled today," said the man at the door. "We had a category 2 tornado last night. The stake president canceled meetings so folks could deal with the damage. Sorry."

I think maybe I need to revise my ideas about what constitutes a true tornado. One can't always count on being lucky instead of wise.


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com