If you watch the national news this time of year, you would think that those of us who live in or near Tornado Alley must spend weeks at a time cowering in fear. These programs all seem to feature weather maps showing areas highlighted with the direst of warnings for everyone in the affected area to take cover because tornadoes will be coming!
Believe it or not, we actually go on with our lives throughout the spring. Which works out nicely, because yesterday the Today show showed my part of the country right in the middle of the bulls-eye. Sure enough, late yesterday afternoon, storms began to pop up to our west. My mom called me at work shortly after 5:00 p.m. to make sure I knew there were storms headed in our direction. I asked her how close they were. "About 100 miles away," she said.
Even with the construction between work and home that I complained about last week, it doesn't take me that long to get home. I assured her that I would leave work in plenty of time to get home before the big storm hit. After all, we live in a state where we joke that the tornado sirens are the signal that it's time to go out and watch the tornado.
Throughout the spring, tornado watches are a dime a dozen, and we barely notice them. A tornado watch means conditions are right for tornadoes to form. It doesn't mean they will. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted. We're not sure what to make of those now. With the advancement of radars, sometimes the tornado has been spotted in the radar - even then, it can be aloft and never come down to cause damage. The only thing a tornado warning means for sure is that there will be no broadcast TV on the network affiliates. Instead of our favorite shows, we'll see hours of meteorologists showing us radar images and footage of storm spotters watching the wind blow.
After my mom's call, I kept an eye on the clock, leaving in plenty of time to get home before things could get bad. The first thing I noticed when I walked outside was that it didn't really feel like tornado weather when I walked out to my car. "Tornado weather" usually feels oppressive. All the same, I decided it was better to be safe than sorry. When I got home, I moved the cat carrier into my downstairs bathroom, as though there would be a possibility of getting my two cats into the carrier if the sirens were to go off. (There's virtually no chance they would want to come near me at that point, must less allow me to stuff the two of them into a carrier.) I changed into comfortable clothes and settled in for the evening, surfing between local stations to check for watches and warnings, and cable stations for, well, entertainment. To be fair, the video on the never-ending weather report was pretty impressive, with multiple vortices (there's a word I never expected to use in a sentence) surrounding some of the funnels.
There wasn't much to see where I live. The wind blew for awhile, and there was the briefest of downpours, as the storms mostly just went around my hometown.
There was a family in Norman that, like most of us, took the tornado warning lightly. The warning areas are always much broader than the path covered by a tornado, so they went about preparing their dinner, with an eye on the TV. When they noticed the tornado seemed headed for their house, they made a beeline for the storm shelter, which believe it or not, most of us don't have. If you didn't catch their story this morning, here's the link to their interview on the Today show. It pretty well sums up how all of us approach the possibility of a tornado.
Despite the fact nothing happened at all in my city, there was a stark reminder of why the TV weather guys hold us hostage every time the wind blows. Five people were killed and dozens were injured elsewhere in the storms that went around us. They say tomorrow night could be another rough one.
That's OK. The cat carrier's still in my downstairs bathroom.