Thursday, April 28, 2011

When Hell Descends from the Sky

It has been a hairy week for those who live in the Midwest, Mid-South and Deep South. Scores of tornadoes have touched down in several states causing millions of dollars in damages, killing over 215 people and injuring hundreds more. Along with the tornadoes, we've also witnessed damaging straight winds, hail the size of golf balls and larger plus torrential rains that have led to floods. And it's not even May yet -- typically the most tornado-prone month!!

Whether or not you think global warming plays a part in all this, there's no question that, if the rest of the spring and summer continues with this pace of storms, 2011 will go down as one of the stormiest years in recent memory. As it now stands, there have been more tornadoes for an April than has ever been recorded before in modern US history.

Having lived for much of my early years in and around Tornado Alley, I certainly understand the anxiety tornado warnings bring. While I was lucky that I never experienced a touch down in the immediate vicinity of where I was located, I have been near where a tornado wreaked havoc.

Back in the late 80s, my wife and I called Morrilton, Arkansas home. One night she and I (along with our dog and cat) cowered in an interior closet with a mattress over our heads as a tornado touched down less than a mile from our house. Two years later, after we had moved to Beebe, a tornado fell from the sky about 2 miles from where we lived.

At another time, while living in Newton, Kansas, a series of tornadoes touched down in several communities all around Newton and the creek at the end of our block became a raging torrent due to a flash flood. I also experienced several near tornadoes when I was living in Hot Springs, Arkansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

We even saw a tornado one time while driving near Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were coming home from a trip out west when we noticed a funnel cloud and subsequent tornado a few miles to our north off of Interstate 40. We fumbled to find a local radio station and learned that a tornado warning had been issued because the tornado was headed in the direction of the city -- the same direction we were headed! Fortunately, the tornado fizzled out before it and we got to Albuquerque.

Over the last few days, many people have not been as lucky as I have been. They have been traumatized or worse by the seeming fury of Mother Nature. My heart goes out to those who must pick up the pieces amidst shattered lives.

Tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, blizzards and the like should remind each of us that, no matter how technologically modern current society appears, not unlike our ancestors, we still often are at the mercy of forces that we don't entirely understand.

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