Atmosphere And Weather

Tornadoes – Tornadoes



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Having lived in areas prone to both hurricanes and tornadoes, I have found that tornadoes are deadlier. I have survived both. I was terrified during the storms. I do not swim, so the hurricane made me shake all over at the thought of all that water. I do not fly, so the the thought of being lifted off the ground and planted in a tree made me run to the nearest "fraidy hole." My reasoning for this conclusion was simple - with hurricanes you have days to prepare to take shelter, but with tornadoes there is often little warning.

While living in Florida, the weatherman announced "Hurricane Somebody" was on it's way to my house. Not to the general area, this bad boy was coming to MY home. I had been watching for days, several days, learning of the different steps a hurricane must make to become a hurricane. I had began to pack up all our belongings the first day I heard about the tropical depression. My husband, in Ireland for a family emergency, got a frantic call from me.

"I'm going home - a hurricane is on it's way and I'm going home." He tried to convince me to wait a few days and not go home, but go to Atlanta instead. "Too close to the ocean. I'm going home to Oklahoma." I wasn't in a panic and I wasn't planning on being in a situation that would cause me to panic.

My neighbors laughed at me as I loaded our car with all our pictures and keepsakes. I didn't care about the furniture or the appliances. I wanted to save my pictures! They wanted to know why I was packing up and running away. "A hurricane," I explained. "It is on it's way."

Okay. I will admit there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the wind wasn't blowing hard enough to knock down the heavy magnolia blooms in the trees that fell when someone didn't walk by softly. They laughed at me, those seasoned Floridians who were use to hurricanes. I wasn't going to be brave, I was going to be smart. I was going home, half-way across the country to save myself and my pictures!

I felt a bit foolish when I pulled back into the driveway two days later. I had driven all the way to Arkansas when it was announced the hurricane had disappeared. I found a huge sign on my front porch "Oklahoma or Bust," a gift from the neighbors. I tried to explain to them over the next several days that I had warning of the hurricane, something foreign to this tornado survivor, and I should take advantage of it. They didn't understand and I gave up trying to explain it.

The warning of tornadoes, if there is one, gives you only minutes to escape the storm's wrath. There are no pretty maps days in advance that tracks them. They appear, do their dirty work, and disappear into the sky. By the time you put on shoes and open the back door to make your mad dash to the cellar, the wind is howling and debris is swirling. Too late for many to survive.

I was blessed to have grown up with a grandfather who could sense tornadoes before they appeared. Because of him, our family had a little more time to seek shelter. I, too, have a small portion of his gift. I feel it in the air. I don't know what it is, but I can just feel the difference in tornado and non-tornado weather. As soon as that feeling hits me, I am on my way to the cellar. Again, I am not brave, I am smart.

I am also blessed to hear the most wonderful words during tornado season, "Stay with nine, we'll keep you advised," coming from the television. It is Gary England, the greatest weatherman/meteorologist ever. He has the same "tornado sense" my grandfather had, plus all the gadgets and gizmos to scientifically prove what he feels in his bones. He has saved my life countless times by giving the warning as soon as he could while I was ignoring my gut feelings. I've seen him yank off his tie on the air, sweat pouring down his face, as he calmly told us Okies to take "shelter immediately."

One early April morning, about three in the morning, I felt myself being lifted out of bed. I was about six years old. It was my grandfather picking me up. He placed me over his shoulder and my grandmother covered me with a quilt. Not awake yet, I wasn't sure what was going on.

Once outside, I knew. Looking over my grandfather's shoulder, I saw the tornado suck up an oil well in the pasture behind the house. My grandmother's wind chimes were silent, to tangled to jingle. My grandmother managed to open the cellar door and step down into the darkness. My grandfather passed me down to her and then stepped into safety himself, closing the door behind him.

We sat in the shadows made by coal oil lamps always kept in the shelter as the storm raged over us. My grandfather sat quietly, listening to the wind, rain, and hail. My grandmother read aloud from the Bible. Her shaky voice rang out above the noise of the storm as she read Psalms 46. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble...though the earth be removed..the mountains be carried away..."

Once the storm had passed, we made our way back above ground. The house was still standing, but the old barn was scattered across the county. Literally, over forty mile away, a board from the barn with my grandfather's name and date he built it was found. Thankfully, the horses were in the new barn. No lives were lost that night. In the morning light, we found black jack oak leaves stuck in the frame house. I had seen straw that had pierced through trees, but not oak leaves stuck in wood. What kind of force can make a leaf go through wood? I still shudder at that thought. We were outside in that kind of wind. What could have been blown through us?

Hurricanes and tornadoes are both deadly. Personally, I would rather be faced with the hurricane. Everyone knows it is on it's way. There is a chance to get away. Tornadoes pop up on a whim; there is very little, if any, warning. They can't be mapped out days in advance. For this reason, I know tornadoes are deadlier than hurricanes.

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