Escape from Oz
20 Apr 2011
Inside the Classics

The massive storm system that spawned several dozen tornadoes in North Carolina over the weekend and has been all over the news roared through downtown Raleigh at around 4 pm Saturday. I know, because I was there.

I’d realized that there were tornado warnings, and the fact that cable TV went dark, and that several minutes later the power went out should have clued me in that something really scary was happening. As it was, I just kept studying Rite of Spring in my hotel room on the 9th floor of the Marriott. That was, until the sky turned green and a Jimmy Johns sign and sheets of insulation started hitting my window – at which point it was a bit too late to head for the basement. So I headed for the bathtub, on the cellphone with my husband who was yelling “It’s on top of you! The tornado is on top of downtown! Get down!”

The death toll throughout North Carolina was terrible – 22 as of this morning. None of those were downtown – looks like we had an F3 tornado – but the damage was obvious. Huge trees knocked down, roofs torn off buildings, some glass doors in the Performing Arts complex (which houses Meymandi Hall, home of the North Carolina Symphony) blown in, some cosmetic damage to the exterior of the hall.

The North Carolina Symphony concert, which I was to have conducted, was cancelled. And it was such a good program! Ravel’s Mother Goose, Dohnanyi’s Variations on a Nursery Song and Stravinsky’s Petrouchka – all brilliantly played on the previous two evenings.

Power was out (as it turned out, nearly all night) downtown, so, with nothing more to do, I headed out to do some impromptu video journalism:

In the end, the most damaging twisters hit northeast of the metro area. But what I witnessed was frightening enough, and a reminder of both the power of nature and of our small place in the universe.

<February 2020>

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