Today being the 23rd of May, in the year 2011, my heart is very troubled and broken over the news that the recent severe weather that has caused so many tornadoes to form, has taken the lives of scores of people.
Mainly in Joplin, Missouri where the death toll is at 116. I do not know if that will rise. But I certainly hope not. Its hard enough to fathom that so many people have lost their lives during the storms.
And now, they are saying that the storm that hit Joplin is one of the top ten deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history.
Also taking into consideration the massive outbreak that occured just last month in April, which wore on for several days in a row, totally beating out the Super Tornado Outbreak of April 3-4, 1974 where 148 tornadoes were reported and hundreds of people dead.
The wild part is that I love severe weather phenomenon. Tornadoes are my key interest. Ever since I was a child, tornadoes have always found their way to capture my attention. True, when I was younger it would scare me to death whenever I would hear those tornado sirens start to blare. It got so bad that whenever there was a thunderstorm and it had a lot of thunder and lightning, I was trying to prepare myself that at any moment I would hear those sirens.
One time in particular that I will never forget for the rest of my life was when I was a child. I was playing at a neighborhood friend’s house at the time the storm hit us. It is significant to me in my mind because I was with my brother and we were inside the house, without prior parental permission. That definitely would have met the death house for me and my social life for about a week!
The thunderstorm intensified and my friend’s mother came into the bedroom where we were playing and simply said, “You have to leave.” Then she walked out.
I was horrified that my friend’s mother would just simply toss us out in the rain. Even though we lived directly across the street and one house over. I figured she knew about my issues with loud noises, including thunder. And to just send us out into the rain like that was cruel.
But she had laid down the law of the house. Time to go. So I got up from the floor and walked into their den. My intention was to plead for a stay of execution until the storm had passed. When I looked over at their TV, the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for our county! Earlier days of radar back then was showing that the tornadic storm was basically right on top of us. So I stood there frozen, not knowing what to do.
My friend’s mother called my name and said, “Your mother is calling for you. You need to go home.”
After that, my brother bailed on me. I guess it was every man for himself at that point. Especially if the mother was out on the front porch, calling for us. Some way, some how he was able to cross the street after my mother went back inside to get out of the storm. He darted across the street, into the front yard, up the stairs and through the front door where he ended up going downstairs in the house and located himself into our shelter for when we had tornado warnings in our area. He never got caught.
I on the other hand, was not that stealthy. By the time I came out of my friend’s house and walked down their driveway the storm was terrible. I froze when I saw my mother had returned to the front porch, frantically calling for her two sons. I decided to hide behind the neighbor’s vehicle and wait her out. It didn’t take long at all because the storm was getting worse.
When I saw that my mother had once again went back into the house, I began to hear that dreaded noise of the wailing sirens. Because of my decision to wait before crossing the street, the loud sounds of thunder crashing hurt my poor young ears. My body soaking wet from the downpours of rain.
But I saw my chance to do the same thing that my brother had done. I continued my way down the neighbor’s driveway and stopped before I ventured out into the street. After all, school was doing me some good. Keeping safe before crossing the street by looking both ways.
After that, I remember that I was about to take my first step down from the curb and begin to cross the street. That never happened!!
In a blink of an eye, I felt light and free. I recall sitting the roof of my house for just a fraction of a second, before I realized I was laying down in the dirt, mud, and leaves. But I was also in my front yard.
What actually had happened, that I realized years later was that the outter bans of the tornado had picked me up from the ground. It lifted me into the air. Throwing me across the street and then slammed me into the front yard. I was not harmed.
All of that took less than two seconds to occur. Needless to say that when I went up the front steps to go through the front door, I was met on the inside of the house by my mother. She yelled at me for two things: One- that I was not in our hiding place where we were supposed to go when we heard the tornado sirens. Two- I was covered in mud. Accused of playing in it prior to.
I slithered downstairs and joined the rest of my family until the storm had passed. Like I said, it took years for me to realize what had happened. But at the time, I was just glad that I was okay. But couldn’t figure out how I had gotten there so quick. And why in the world would I see the top of my house like that?
In case you are wondering, I was in fact grounded for the rest of the night after the storm had passed. But not for being in someone’s house without prior permission, but for “being foolish to play in the mud”, and not coming directly home when being called upon. What I thought was going to be at least a week of grounding, was only for one night. My brother as I said, was free and clear to go back outside and playing with the neighborhood again once the storm was gone.
We would find out that an elderly man lost his life in the storm, who was residing in a mobile home only one block over. So who knows what would have happened to me if I had been directly within the tornado, instead of being engulfed by the strong outer winds!
From that point on, I became fascinated by tornadoes and its awesome power. To be able to take something as small and simple as a playing card and slice it through a tree was incredible to me.
Naturally, it would take years to get over the original fear of thunderstorms. The constant picking on by older siblings never helped much. But now its laughed at. I would come to realize that not ALL thunderstorms were a prelude to a tornado.
From that point on, I think that the last time I had any involvement in any severe weather phenomenon that was particularly including in a tornado event was the Hesston Tornado on March 13, 1990. I was not actually in Hesston, but I was in the area where the weather was dangerous enough to prompt tornado warnings for a large area of the state. I had to seek shelter then too.
And even in the late 1990’s I correctly indentified four different cloud formations that would eventually spawn tornadoes in other parts of the state. One of which was only 35 miles away.
My fascination led me to study them on my own. I learned about weather and clouds and what they commonly mean for the weather forecast. I can tell which is a thunderstorm and which has the potential for producting tornadoes.
I’m not bragging. I’m simply explaining just how deep this fascination really goes! My family has told me for many, many years that I need to study and have a career in meterology. But these conversations only happen in between the months of March and June, which is “tornado season” for Tornado Alley.
I have yet to see a tornado from a distance with my own eyes. I have been in many situations where the tornado sirens were blaring and instead of going outside to look, I seek shelter. I find that these people who run outside are very foolish. Even though you are not any where near tornado, if you are able to be a witness to one, that means that you are within the storm’s realm. Lightning is capable of striking you. The same with hail. So I don’t run outside, I stay safe.
I’ve never been on a “tornado chase” either. I know that there are many tornado tours that are available. I’d like to try one, but haven’t yet.
And I absolutely HATE tornadoes that come during the night! You cannot see them coming. You don’t know what’s going to happen.
On December 24th, 1982, a night time tornado struck our area. On Christmas Eve! All I could think about was “Christmas was going to be cancelled.” Especially if this storm hit our house and blew it to pieces. It hit at night, and hearing those sirens blaring in the dark was horrifying. (Christmas was not cancelled that year, and as a matter of fact only a day or two later from that, there was six inches of snow on the ground. Go figure.)
But going through all of these experiences really has caused this wild fascination. I still feel so bad when I hear that there has been fatalities. It is a horrible feeling. And my heart and prayers goes out to those who have been affected by ANY tornado. Whether it is a loss of life or property.
And today, my thoughts are on Joplin, Missouri. I hope that they will be able to recover from this deadly storm very soon.