Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tornado on the Ground

I’ve seen a few tornados in my lifetime. The whole system of tornado watches and warnings has certainly evolved since I was a kid. We didn’t have the capability of pulling up Dopler radar on a PC or have a weather radio. We usually knew a storm was coming when the sky turned black and the dog started howling.

The first time I saw a tornado, I was about eight years old and visiting my aunt and uncle in northern Missouri. We were returning from a picnic in a park and stayed ahead of the storm until we made it back to their house. Just as we headed to the cellar, we could hear the roaring of the tornado.

Those of us who live in the Midwest (and aren’t storm chasers) hate to hear the words “Tornado on the ground.” Sedalia has been hard hit by tornados before, and those of us who saw the destruction aren’t exactly wishing to see that again.

I was at the Memory Walk Meeting last Thursday night when my phone rang. It was my oldest son checking to see where I was and to tell me part of the county was under a tornado warning.

“I think it’s going to miss Sedalia,” he said.

“I’m here at the church,” I said. “I guess that’s as good a place as any to ride out a storm.”

I turned my Dell Netbook on and pulled up the radar to have a look at the storm. The chairwoman’s daughter, Theila, watched over my shoulder as the red box representing the tornado warning moved closer to Sedalia.

“It’s moving to the north of us,” I assured her.

That’s when we heard the sirens. I gathered up my items, and our group headed toward the bride’s room, which is the church’s designated safe room. We were joined by an older couple and a young man. Of course, we all started dialing our cell phones. All I got was a “network busy” message. The young man reached a friend who said the tornado was on the ground by the new high school. Well, tornadically speaking, that wasn’t far from where we were.

Having lived in Missouri my entire life, I know rumors of tornado touchdowns may be exaggerated, but this time it really did happen—and, of course, it was caught on video. That video and other pictures have made the rounds on Facebook.

Damage was slight because the new rating system deemed it a weak tornado or an EF0. It’s probably a good thing it was weak because about half the people in town were standing in front of windows or outside to get a good look at the tornado and snap a few pictures.

Yes, I prefer being in a safe room to gawking at a storm headed toward me. Personally, I don’t want to be sucked up to OZ because I just had to shoot a video or snap a picture.

copyright (c) May 2010 L. S. Fisher

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