First, I am fine. The house still stands. Thank you so much for your tweets and FB messages. It made me feel loved. The large tornado which devastated parts of Piedmont and the west side of Guthrie including the high school was about ten miles west of here. Tornadoes also touched down in other communities which haven’t received as much news coverage like Chickasha and El Reno.
It’s been a rough weather week throughout much of the U.S., and last Tuesday, Oklahoma wasn’t spared Nature’s vehemence either.
On Twitter, when I said I wasn’t afraid of tornadoes, I was taken to task by one tweeter. Really, I’m not afraid, but I think I should explain why. I’ve lived in Oklahoma my entire life, and I understand tornadoes the way people born in California “get” earthquakes. I am in awe of their violence, and I respect their power, but I don’t live in fear.
I am prepared. My log home is built into the side of a hill, and we have a basement with an interior closet that has a ceiling reinforced with steel. Generally, several days beforehand, we know when bad weather is on the horizon, and once the meteorologists tell us a storm with possible tornadoes is forming, our family gets home before it starts. Tornadoes usually occur in late afternoon right around rush hour or a little after. Although sometimes they do form at night. The nighttime ones are scary, but I have a very loud weather radio next to my bed.
Tuesday morning dawned hot and still. As I walked outside to drive Bear to school, all around me it as if the environment was gearing up for something. In fact, it reminded me of when I was at the end of my pregnancies.
Waiting . . . .
I turned to Bear and said, “We will have a storm tonight.”
In Oklahoma, we are fortunate to have the best warning system in the world. Students study in Norman at the National Weather Service because we are smack dab in the middle of tornado alley.
As for meteorologists, it doesn’t take a red, bedazzled “severe weather” tie for me to watch Mike Morgan of KFOR. That evening, my family studied the radar as Mike pointed out the track of the various tornadoes. Storm spotters also relayed live information as they rode in special vehicles (David Payne among others) and flew in the sky (Jim Gardener.) We held our personal photos, flashlights and weather radio prepared to run to the basement if necessary.
Let me just say a word about Jim Gardener. In Oklahoma, we all love KFOR’s eye in the sky. He is one of the kindest and most conscientious photojournalists out there. Because every station has its strengths, we also switch back and forth to KWTV with the famous Gary England and KOCO TV with our friend, Rick Mitchell too.
Between these three news stations, they now have the technology to predict within blocks where a tornado is going to hit, the time, and how strong it will be. Tornadoes are rated on the Fujita scale from F0 to F5. On a day like last Thursday, the power in the atmosphere was F4 to F5, which is deadly. An F4 or F5 tornado will turn your home into a pile of sticks in a New York minute.
The people in the cars in this video shot by storm chasers made me very angry. They are all too close to the half-mile wide tornado which eventually hit Piedmont. Cars are not safe. Overpasses are extremely unsafe because the velocity of the tornado will suck you out from beneath them. I sometimes think tornadoes fill people with so much awe that they freeze.
For those of you who don’t live in tornado alley, know that most tornadoes only hit one small area at a time. They can land, cause trouble and then pop back up into the clouds. However, with David Payne driving right into the thick of them, we usually know just how bad they are. If you watch the David Payne footage, it is frightening. Most storm chasers are professionals. Please don’t try this on your own.
The weather folks and newscasters had warned all day that an interior closet or bathroom might not be enough. (It is for smaller tornadoes, but you never know which type will hit.) If you live where such storms strike, I would suggest you either get a shelter like mine or one you can place beneath your garage floor. The Communications Federal Credit Union is now offering low interest loans for people to purchase shelters.
If you decide not to have a shelter, know where your local, public shelters are and get there way ahead of the storm. By the time the sirens start to scream, it is probably too late.
We only had one scary moment when the tornado turned and began tearing down Waterloo Road about fifteen miles from our house. My daughter, Diva, works at a Sonic on Waterloo approximately four miles away, and I couldn’t reach her. Because this particular storm was so large, cell towers weren’t working in my area, and my calls would not go through. Fortunately, her boss reached her and said to turn around and come home. Once all my chicks were in the nest, I was relieved. Local friends were texting me, so I knew they were also safe. For some reason I could get texts, but could not call out.
As for the ten people who were killed, I am truly saddened by their deaths. Both Joplin and Tuscaloosa fared so much worse, and I think it was a combination of things including the tornado hitting large populated areas. Oklahoma is still very rural.
The Hamil family, who lost both of their sons, are parishioners of St. Damien’s parish (as are three other families who lost everything), and I am a member of St. John’s. The entire community is reaching out to them and everyone who lost loved ones or property.
If you want to help any of the families in the U.S. who were touched by the recent tornado outbreaks, there are several ways, but the Red Cross is always a good one.
I leave you with another shot of the garden which is starting to come into its own. As for tornadoes, we’re nearly through the season. Stay safe everyone and heed the meteorologists when they say duck and run.