Monday, April 27, 2009

tornados - and the wind sweeping down the plains

i was mostly raised in the desert. (which is very similar to dessert, and that probably explains my affinity for all things sweet.) in the desert we had hot. a bit hot. a lot hot. and very, very hot. but the closest we really came to weather events was an occasional dust storm.

then i moved to flagstaff. which isn't very similar to dessert. nonetheless, i still had the affinity for sweets. and flagstaff was mountainous. and piney. and in the winter we had cold. a bit cold. pretty cold. very, very cold. and we did need to pay attention to the weather. otherwise, we wouldn't know how to dress when we went out. it could be a nice morning and turn to blizzard at 3:30 in the afternoon. so the important thing there was to be prepared to dress warmly. and drive really careful.

now it's oklahoma. and the weather is . . . nice. mostly. oh, we have our "hot" days. and once in a while we have "lot hot" days. and then there's the humidity. but that's not what i'm here to talk about.

the big thing here, as most know, is tornadoes. now the only tornadoes i've ever been around before were cars built by oldsmobile. i think those were really toronados, but close enough to cause my affinity for chocolate. but these tornadoes are peculiar happenings. like the blizzards in flagstaff, they can start up on what has been a rather calm and mellow day. but there the similarity ends.

tornadoes are pretty scary. first thing that happens is all the local tv stations start flashing, up in the corner of the screen, "tornado watch". a tornado watch means simply that the atmospheric conditions are right for the possibility of tornadoes. not necessarily that you're gonna have them. but having that message flashing makes you pay attention. after all, you sure wanna be ready to go to your safe place. or, as my mom used to say, your "hidey hole". some have storm cellars. some have safe rooms, which is a concrete room fully contained in the house. we have a laundry room. which we consider our safe room because it's insulated from the great outdoors by at least one room in every direction. no windows. no external walls.

that said, the next thing you watch for is the shift from "tornado watch" to "tornado warning". this means that some sort of rotation has been sighted in the area. maybe not on the ground. maybe as much as a mile up. but there's a rotation that could, if things fall into place, could lead to a tornado which could, if things fall into place, could touch down. this is when things get exciting. and the siren's begin to blare.

all television programming is pre-empted. every channel has roving reporters, called "storm chasers", mobile and deployed in the vicinity of the rotation. david's in seminole. arthur's in shawnee. carl is in vici (pronounced vie-see, believe it or not). amos is in lawton. and jim's flying around in news chopper four. with vince coordinating all the activity from the studio.

david's got some interesting video near seminole. come in, david. yeah, there's a strong wall cloud over here. things look just right for this thing turning into a category f-17 tornado. ok, thanks david. let's go to amos in lawton. thanks vince. we've had unsubstantiated reports of a tornado touching down in the wilderness area between gertrude and poteau. ok, amos. that means all you folks in pottawattamie county need to prepare to go to your safe place. now to arthur in shawnee. things are calm here, vince. but ol' ezra's bunions are hurting him, and most think that means there's some upper level vortex rotation in the sub stratosphere. thanks amos.

and this goes on. one night we completely missed survivor, of all things. a message displayed across the screen telling us we could watch survivor "in it's entirety" at 2:37 a.m. huh? seriously who's gonna stay up and watch survivor at 2:37? fortunately, technology has given us tivo. or dvr's.

along about 9 or ten o'clock things start to wind down. and you can hear the disappointment in vince's voice, and all the mobile reporters as well, when they have to admit that nothing catastrophic's gonna happen and they have to sign off and go home. shucks.

however, there is a reality here. we do have to watch this stuff. because sometimes it really does happen. three times since we've been here we had tornadoes touch down within a couple mile range of our house. fortunately, they haven't been closer. but there have been times when we've grabbed the dogs, and even tried to grab the cats, and holed up in the laundry room with a portable radio. cowering under pillows and mattresses. and waiting for the all clear signal, which is signified by the termination of that infernal siren. better to be safe than sorry.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I'm still getting used to all these tornado watches too. it's not like where I grew up where it rained a bit and would be described anywhere from spitting to lashing down. I decided I prefer earthquakes to tornadoes(though I've never seen one) because with an earthquake, it hits, you shake for a few, and it's over. With Tornadoes there are about 100 false alarms getting you worked up before anything happens...and then when it does, you are sitting in your "hidey hole" (I only ever heard grandpa use that term) and waiting. there's nothing you can do except wait for things to die down. Yeah, gimme an earthquake any hits, your done and you start picking up the stuff that fell.