Friday, May 11, 2007

Tornado Alley

Growing up in Kansas I became accustomed to that Rite of Spring known as Tornado Season. Beginning in late March as the Frosty Arctic Chill would begin its thaw in favor of the warm, gentle southern breeze (Kansas is roughly translated as “people of the south wind’), the local stations would pepper the airwaves with ominous warnings regarding the fury of nature that has an affinity for wreaking havoc upon trailer parks and empty prairies. With each gathering storm my mother would be glued to the TV waiting for any signs of danger so she could scoop up the kids and hide us in the basement. And with good reason.

Tornadoes are not pleasant, despite the excitement one gets when seeing one on TV. The town I grew up in never had a direct hit, but we have been in the path of several, only to have them change direction moments before entering the city limits. This was in 1991, when that tornado destroyed the town of Andover just ten miles away and produced this memorable video. I watched it roll by from my back porch. I’ve had to huddle in tiny closets, mall bathrooms, and once in a Borders Books break room as the sirens glared.

My father lived through the worst tornado disaster in Kansas’s history (see photo). On March 25, 1955 at 10:35 pm, a tornado ripped through and demolished the small Kansas town of Udall. The surrounding area had experienced some bad weather, but the local news had stated that all was pretty clear by 10:00 pm, so the residences of Udall went to bed without proper warning. The result was 77 people dead and a town destroyed. My father recalls his mother forcing him from bed just moments from impact and as he was trudging down the stairs his bed started hopping after him.

And now we have the latest one to strike a Kansas town. Greensburg, alone out there on the open prairie, and vulnerable to the elements. Here’s to a speedy recovery.


wilco1014 said...

Hmmm..beds hopping after people. I'm not sure I'm up for that.

Liz said...

reason #152 you might not move back?