Tornado sirens are wailing outside. But this is not a test. Bull’s-eye is on us.
Inside, on the TV, WFAA-TV (Channel 8) meteorologist Pete Delkus directs dire warnings at our neighborhood, a predicted target for a possible twister. Take cover now.
Hail is falling, pounding our windows and roof in blasts that sound like war is upon us.
For the second time in two months we are under weather attack. First, the loss of power for days, now hailstones the size of, well, you’ll see in a moment.
My wife, Karen, is outside on the sun porch making videos for our youngest son, Austin, a weather hobbyist, who is recording a few miles away.
I’ve cleaned out the closet beneath the main stairway, carrying out shoes, vacuum cleaner, unused dog gates, anything in the way of sheltering two adults, two dogs.
Suddenly it feels like the air pressure is dropping. I run to the back door and order Karen inside.
The four of us huddle under the stairway. But not for long. It gets eerie quiet. No more blasts. We wait a moment to be sure, then exit.
“I’ve got to get a hailstone,” she says.
She goes outside, picks one up and runs back inside to the kitchen with her trophy. She looks for something to show its comparative size. She grabs the nearest round object she can find and snaps a photo of the stone beside it. She sends it to our son Austin. Then she goes to WFAA’s app, fills out a form and uploads the photo.
“Good luck, honey,” I say without believing. “You and everyone else.”
Karen, a former direct marketing manager, knows enough to summon a catchy title. She labels her photo “Cinnamon Delight.” The photo shows the stone matched up in size beside a cinnamon roll.
After that, strange things happen.
The big story
Anchor Chris Lawrence brings it up on air first while the storm is moving eastward. “Interesting,” he says. “Usually, we see pingpong balls, rulers, golf balls, baseballs. Karen Lieber used a cinnamon roll.”
“Yeah, Karen, that’s a good side-by-side comparison,” anchor Cynthia Izaguirre says.
I look at Karen and I’ve never seen her so happy. Her smile is as wide as that cinnamon roll. I revel in her joy. And then she explains the reason behind her happiness. All the attention in our household goes to everyone else. She feels like a background player. But this is her moment as a star. For once, it’s Karen’s time.
And there is more to come.
Her cinnamon delight is mentioned on NBC5′s morning show. And WFAA isn’t giving up on the story either. The morning crew engages in cinnamon happy talk. “Take a look at this,” weatherman Jesse Hawila says.
“It’s a great comparison, and it’s nice to see a cinnamon roll,” he says. “But you don’t want cinnamon roll-sized hail.” The morning crew debates the size of the roll. “Hopefully, it was one of the smaller cinnamon rolls,” Hawila says.
Later that morning, Karen gets an email from WFAA reporter Malini Basu, who wants to interview her. They arrange a time.
On the 6 p.m. newscast, Izaguirre says, “This picture is causing a lot of buzz online. So we wanted to talk to the person who not only makes cinnamon rolls at night but used it to possibly make the best hail comparison yet.”
There’s Karen on TV now, explaining the process. “I grabbed it and said, ‘Oh, that’s about the same size.’” She holds up the stone, which had been stored for safety in the freezer, and says, “That’s my little guy.”
She explains that she recorded the storm and saved the stone for Austin, who last year took a class and is a certified storm spotter.
Then reporter Basu says, “We decided to surprise her this afternoon.” Suddenly, on Karen’s screen, Delkus pops up.
“Karen!” he says.
She sees him. “Oh, Pete! How are you? Look at my little snowball here, the size of a half-eaten cinnamon roll.”
It’s melting. Her media sidekick is slowly leaving her.
“I knew you’d have to find out what ‘Cinnamon Delight’ was,” she tells him.
Delkus laughs and says, “I love this story right there, the creativity. I just wondered where it came from. Now that I know, as Paul Harvey used to say, that’s the rest of the story.”
He talks about Lulu’s Bakery & Café in San Antonio, famed for its 3-pound cinnamon rolls. He was worried the hail was going to be 3 pounds. Coincidentally, he mentions that Lulu closed its doors permanently a few days before.
Before the interview ends, Karen tells them, “I’m glad everybody’s got something to talk about.”
A couple of days later, Karen is raking up debris outside. Storm-chasing roofers are parading up and down our street.
Karen is approached by one, but she gives him The Watchdog’s spiel about how to find an honest, local roofer.
“Did you register with the police to go door to door?” she asks him. “Are you a member of the roofer’s association. Do you have ID?”
He says, “Did you get hail here?”
“Yes, we had hail the size of cinnamon rolls.”
His eyes brighten.
“Oh, you’re her?”