Tornado 01/23/21

The weather here is gray, which I love, although we haven’t had any rain yet. I think of Oklahoma as a “rain tease.” Every year, if you look at the forecast around this time, you’ll see rain scheduled for the week. Then, as you approach the days of precipitation, the predictions move a little further down the line…now it’s next week…then it’s gone, forgotten, cartoon suns and cartoon wind.

Then, during the middle of that cartoon sun week, it’ll start pouring cats and dogs. Go figure.

Meteorology has always interested me. It’s a fascinating science, one that uses computer modeling to predict where and when, say, a tornado will touch down.

Often, the computer models are wrong, and I think that meteorologists would cop to that. It’s not important that they’re wrong, though. It’s important that they err on the side of caution.

Prepare for rain, enjoy the sun.

When I was growing up here, tornadoes terrified me. And rightfully so: they’re impossibly huge tubes of dust and cloud that can suck you up into the sky and rip you apart. Everything you own, gone in a flash. When I was in the third grade, a twister touched down very close to my school. We had to duck and cover by the lockers. Looking outside, one kid said, “It looks like Star Trek weather.” Green skies, the sound of a train rolling overhead. We ended up being fine, but what terror!

That’s sort of the cost of living here, in an otherwise livable state (so long as you keep to yourself and don’t get brain poisoning). You become faced with the possibility that a tornado could come out of the sky and fuck your shit up. It makes you really good at assessing risk.

For example: do you hop in your car and travel a few miles south, to get out of the way of the potential disaster? Well, maybe, maybe not. The way it looks now, it’s going to miss you…but it could swing. And if you go south, it could swing right into your path, and you don’t want to be in your car for that.

At a certain point, you hop in your bathtub, maybe with a mattress over you if you’re able, and you just wait. It’s hard to explain to non-Midwesterners how routine this becomes. You sit and you wait for the world to do its thing.

It molds people. You either become an anxious wreck every tornado season, or you learn to accept the risk and, yeah, occasionally get in the bathtub.

The interrupted programming, the stern voices of the meteorologists on TV, the cell phone videos from storm chasers, it all creates this environment that forces adrenaline through your system. Just you try to read a book and ride it out! You can’t.

You’re in it.

I think learning to live with this kind of thing is vital to our survival. To treat the Tornado God with respect, to understand its power, is different than living in constant fear of it.

Ya know?

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