Thursday, July 14, 2011


We've all hear a lot about tornadoes, particularly this summer. But how many of us have been "up close and personal" with one, this year or some other time?

There have been some hugely destructive ones in the United States. In a three day period (April 25 - 26) tornadoes caused wide-spread death and damage in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In fact, 335 tornadoes were confirmed in 21 states from Texas to New York during that period. There was also massive damage when Joplin, Missouri, and related areas, were hit in May.

Tornadoes have also been reported in Canada, Bangladesh, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

I don't know about you, but I've never been very close to a tornado. And I've never received any training in what to do if there's a tornado. Those are almost unheard-of where I grew up.

So what does one do when a tornado is near-by?

The pictures I saw of Joplin, MO, in particular, were sufficiently frightening. Basically, nothing left in some places. What appear to have been wood-frame houses were completely taken apart — blown apart, really. Not much protection there.

Our apartment has a concrete structure and concrete exterior. That would have provided some additional protection. But St. John's Hospital in Joplin still suffered a lot of damage. You could see it in the pictures.

What's a Bear to do?

We have a small storage room in the middle of our apartment — not near any windows. I figured if I got on the floor of that, I would have been in the safest place in our suite. Not that I know it would have been safe; I was just guessing.

What to take with me?

A few important papers, and some medications. And some family photos. Of course, I would have made sure J was in there, first and foremost, but she wasn't home at the time.

Fortunately, nothing came near us. A twister apparently touched down about 30 miles west of us, but that's as close as it got. And judging from the pictures from there, the situation wasn't too bad. No people hurt as far as I know.

Have you ever been in a place when a tornado touched down? What happened? What did you do? Bear would be very pleased to know. Others might be as well.


Amanda Summer said...

r-bear, i grew up in minnesota and tornadoes were a big part of my childhood. every summer it seemed at some point the sky would turn green, the insects would stop buzzing, the birds went silent. my mom would call from inside the kitchen to the kids to come in. she would take the radio, switch off the oven on the way down to the basement where we would sit until rainwater started to cascade down through the cellar windows — and until finally the all clear would be called. one time my brother looked out the basement window and saw a tornado on the lake in front of our house. it took out a gas station on the corner but we escaped its wrath. i've had dreams about tornadoes a lot as a kid — it's a powerful image.

what happened in joplin was absolutely horrific. it's so sad to realize that - even with all the advance warning systems we now have these days - that those poor people still had no time to take cover.


When my dad first finished building my (our) home, a tornado came through the field but jumped the 1/4 mile to the river. My sister was scared silly and dad took a circular saw to the kitchen floor; cut a "door" into the ground and started hauling out dirt by the shovel-full, then by the bucket, then by the wheel barrow until he had dug out a tornado cellar.

In the cellar he kept an ax. "Why daddy?" "because if the house caves in on top of the trap-door, we won't be able to get OUT without an ax."

MORE to think on. Hmmmmmm.

Joe and I always took our medicine, a portable radio, bottled water, a blanket, Beau, and lots of flashlights with us when the sky turned dark, DARK green and the sirens went off, but no tornado hit the house until we moved away and put a FOR SALE sign in the yard.

I guess dad (as well as I) didn't like the thought of strangers living in "our" house.

Brenda Susan said...

Iv'e never lived in either tornado or hurricane country. I live in Calif. where some say they would be too afraid of our earthquakes. But my answer is this: We do not have a yearly EARTHQUAKE SEASON like other states have tornado or hurricane SEASONS!

Rob-bear said...

® Amanda: Thanks for sharing your memories. Powerful experience; powerful image. And totally out of our control.

® Beau's Mom: Thanks for sharing that story, too. We all need a place in a storm, even if it's a hole in the ground.

® Brenda Susan: But perhaps you do have an earthquake season, that works on a different time schedule from what we expect.
Regardless, I hope you stay safe.

Rubye Jack said...

As you know I recently moved from California to SE Oklahoma, and I would much rather deal with the earthquakes than tornadoes. When I was back here after only two months it was pouring rain and dark, and the sirens went off. This was my first storm since I'd been back and I was so very scared I was shaking. I was afraid to go to the club house, which has a shelter and is just across the street because the lightning was so bad. So, I got into the closet in the middle of my house with my laptop and sat there until the power went out. You should have seen me move!. Ha. I ran out to my car, drove not even a 1/2 block and got inside to where the neighbors already were. The tornado hit about 10 miles from here and several more were sighted that night. When the sirens go off you don't have time to gather things because it means one has been sighted in town (here). It's different in other counties.

I've learned during tornado season to have my battery light and medicines, and matches in my bag ready to go. I personally won't risk time again when the sirens go off and will just go even if the skies are lit with lightning.

While I was sitting in my closet I wrote a post about what was happening. I don't know if I kept it on my blog or not though.

Frances said...

Hello Bear,

Like many others, my early acquaintance with the power of tornadoes came via The Wizard of Oz. It is astonishing that so many tornadoes have swept across the US this year. Some say that it only seems massive because nowadays the formerly clear midwest plains are now built up with ... buildings.

Well, some of those building were un-built in 2011.

Let me not get negative.

Cheers to you.

Diana said...

I live in Tornado ally and truthfully Bear, I don't give them much thought.

When I was a very young girl and would find myself frightened from strong storms, my mother would always tell me "If God wants us, he will take us, nothing can stop that."

Well even being very young, that clicked to me and my fear of storms has ever since vanished.

Now, sensibly speaking, we've always lived in houses with basements. That is the first place I would go but it takes a lot to get me there much to my husbands dismay!

But an inner room with no walls would be the next best thing. If no inner room, than a bathtub is good. Try to hold something over yourself such as a piece of wood or a mattress to be protected from flying debris. As far as what to take with you, I wouldn't bother. If you are in that situation, nothing will stay in your hands. Probably not even the mattress!!

Good luck and God Bless. Love Di ♥

Kristy said...

Bear, I lived in Tornado Alley in Missouri. Tornado season every year and have been through smaller ones. The best thing to do in an apartment or anything is to get into an interior room without windows. I still have friends and family in Joplin. Most people survived by getting into an interior room . Also many survived with having a charged cellphone.

Rob-bear said...

® Linda: WOW! You don't get much more "up close and personal" with a tornado than that. I'm so glad you're OK. As for the post, if you did save it, it would be great to share!

® Frances: Love your reference to the Wiz. As for you and me, we ain't in Kansas. Fortunately.

® Diana: Thanks for a life-time full of insights. The "inner room" thing has come up several times. Sounds like the safest bet. With or without anything else.

® Kristy: Wow, again! A voice from Tornado Alley, Missouri. Inner room and charged cell phone. Thanks so much!

NOTE: I appreciate very much all your insights into this situation. As I said, it's totally new to me. Thanks for sharing your stories, experiences, and thoughts. ~ Bear

Snowbrush said...

Mississippi--where I spent my first 36 years--has lots of tornadoes, so alerts and warnings are common. I've seen where they hit, some of them within fifteen miles of my house, but I had the good fortune to never lose anything to one.

Natalie said...

Floods, fires, earthquakes, toddlers, teens, and cyclones...but not tornadoes.x

Laura said...

The city next to ours was hit by a tornado 26 years ago. A friend of mine had just moved from our city to that one about 2 months earlier.
Apparently, her little brother was out playing at a park with some friends. A woman came by and told all of the children to come with her to her house, that there was a tornado warning. He said no, he had to get home, his parents would worry.
They found him dead in the ditch of his home, having been struck by some flying debris. He was only 9. Even though I wasn't all that much older, it really hit me hard that someone I knew had been killed that way!
Since then, I've taken tornado warnings pretty seriously and we've had some touch down fairly close to us. Close enough that they've done damage in our town.
Very scary! And I think that the worst thing is when they call a warning right as I'm going to bed. Who can sleep???


Lins' lleisio said...

Gosh, all the English do is talk about the weather but we just don't get the extremes that other countries do. After reading all the comments I'm thanking my lucky stars for that. Very interesting post, again.

About Last Weekend said...

Have never come close and actually didn't know they'd been in New Zealand but have read all your comments which are fascinating recounts....

Rubye Jack said...

Bear, here is that post I wrote the night of all the tornadoes here in Oklahoma.

The pitter patter of hail

Once again I find myself thankful, and tonight I am ever so grateful for my computer. Geez there goes the tornado siren and I am scared goose bumps and all. What to do? I'm now sitting in the dark of my smallest closet breathing heavily and shaking inside. They say tornadoes sound like freight trains so I'm listening for it. I took a pain pill a few minutes ago because I was so scared but it hasn't had time to kick in.

This is when living alone isn't so grand. I hear the train a coming, coming down the line... Not really. Ha. Oh, they also say it is totally silent before it rolls in but I think that one is an old wives tale. It did get quiet for about 2-3 minutes after the sirens went off, but it is hailing again now. Is that a good sign?

We have a tornado shelter room in the club house across the street, but the lightning is so bad I'm afraid to walk over there. The TV is back on, which I find soothing.

Next day update: I finally gave in to the fear of being alone in a tornado and conquered my fear of the lightning, and made it to the club house where I found a few others feeling the same way I did. In the presence of others, my fear left me and I actually had a nice time getting to know some of the neighbors.

And so a good lesson was learned in how we need people when faced with fear. The presence of the other is comforting and much needed in times of fear and sorrow. Being with others gives us strength.

It is the same with blogging in that we find others who share our concerns and who give us the opportunity to learn and feel with them.

Not so alone am I.
The fear really does not come through.

Melissa Cunningham said...

I always thought I'd like to see some drama like that, but alas, no such luck. It's probably good though, eh?

ain't for city gals said...

The only close call I had with a tornado was when I was a kid. We went to Kansas to visit my grandparents and were camping in a tent. We had left for the day and when we came back our tent and everything with it was gone! I can remember that like yesterday but can't remember what I had for breakfast today...From a building many homes are now built without basements and are double wide have no chance with these if a tornado comes through. The public has a false sense of security of getting in a bathtub..just not going to cut it..