If you've been watching the news or lived in the Dallas Fort Worth area, you already know that we had a major storm blow through here on Wednesday which spawned at least sixteen tornados according to the latest news reports. Since you are reading this, it's a pretty safe bet we weathered the storm without incident. I've lived in this area all my life with the exception of a brief interlude in Houston which I try to forget. I'm used to being in the unlit, dead end of "Tornado Alley".
That's not to say we were without concern.
We go through this every year here from about March until September or so. May is particularly active. If you live here long enough, you've either been IN a tornado or know someone who has. I was driving home from work once and watched as a funnel cloud formed right above my head along I-20 in Arlington. I think I've written about the time The Queen and I were having an argument in my truck which was promptly ended when the back end of the truck came off the ground...lifted by high winds which were part of a tornado's storm cell. That'll get your attention.
While Wednesday's storms dodged me and my family, there were some close calls. My inlaws live in Granbury, Texas less then 5 miles from where the EF-4 touched down killing six and destroying everything else in its way. The EF-3 that hit Cleburne, TX continued trucking south towards my mother's place before turning away. The Queen and I were holed up with Maddy at a doc-in-the-box when the sirens went off. We were in almost constant contact with my mother and inlaws the whole time. Not that we could DO anything, but it is reassuring to know that those close to you are safe at times like that.
If you don't live here, it's hard to understand the caprisiousness, arbitrariness, unpredictability and sheer violence of a tornado. Allow me to give you an example from my family's experience.
May 27, 1997 an EF-5 (the so called "finger of God") tornado hit a sleepy little town in central Texas by the name of Jarrell. My great aunt lived there and was extremely fortunate to have been away from home at the time of the storm. She was on her way home though, saw the storm and hid out under a highway overpass. When the storm passed and she was able to head towards home, it was no longer there. Literally. Gone. The slab was the only thing left. Her neighbors, a family of five, were not so fortunate. They lost their lives along with 22 others. Across the street, the houses were intact.
I have some print photos of the aftermath which don't even begin to give a sense of the level of devastation involved. Most people look at a road and think it's pretty solid, stable, unforgiving. The tornado actually scoured the asphalt off the road. Interior electrical wire was found impaling trees. Cattle were found impaled with wheat stalks and other debris.
My great aunt lost almost everything physical in her possession that day. However, a book of her mother's poetry (my great grandmother was a gifted artist and poet) was found in a field open to a page which the volunteers who were searching for survivors and victims found to be very moving. They read the poem from that page at a town meeting with the survivors, and my great aunt immediately recognized it. If I recall correctly, some small things such as cancelled checks or bank deposit slips were found as far away as Florida...presumably carried on the winds. Somethings were never found though.
I know other areas have blizzards or hurricanes which can be no less serious in terms of potential for damage and loss of life. They cannot hold a candle to tornados though. Hurricanes give plenty of warning to get out of town or prepare to hunker down. Blizzards too. You can plan for them and actually be somewhat ready for them (unless you live in New Orleans). Tornados are the hit and run drivers of the storm world. They appear suddenly and disappear just as quickly. There is very little, if any, warning. We are lucky if we get an hours notice of a storm with potential for tornados. Also, when was the last time you heard of a blizzard shredding everything in its path?
Now pardon me while I go back to work.