Several folks have asked me about my reaction to the recent tornadoes in Kentucky. We are becoming a new tornado alley, and the area I live in experiences several tornadoes every year. They have ripped up many towns within 20 miles of my home, and a couple years ago one touched down less than a mile from our front door. We have to date been spared any major damage from the tornadoes.
The daughter of one of my good friends in Ireland recently asked me several questions about tornadoes and how I deal with them. Here is part of my response:
Now - to the tornado questions for Leila. In a nutshell? I am PETRIFIED when the tornadoes start landing nearby! They are terribly unpredictable and they can destroy one house and leave the one next to it untouched. They jump and skip around, so there's no clarity to their path. They can go up in the sky and then come back down a few seconds or minutes later. They are fierce!
They destroy in several ways. They can suck houses up into their funnel, or they can crush houses where they sit. And besides that, they have very bad attitudes.
There's a building in Lubbock Texas, which I've seen myself - many stories tall, I can't quite remember - 20 something, I think. It's tall. Anyway, back in the 70's a tornado came through and lifted the whole darned thing off its foundation and set it back down. But the snapper wasn't very neat - when it set the building back down on its foundation it was crooked! Naturally, it is still crooked!
I don't have alot of choice about being calm, since generally speaking I am home alone with my boy when the tornadoes hit. So when tornadoes come through the neighborhood I have him sit with me. We watch a little tv and talk until it starts to get really rough, then we go hunker down in the cottage, with we believe is our sturdiest building, being an old pole barn and reinforced with solid oak on all sides. We ride out the storms by playing card games and me telling him silly stories, and usually he doesn't even notice when the storms are over.
So outside my head I'm very calm and matter of fact, because he is very susceptible to my mood and if I act upset he's going to panic. Inside my head, however, I'm a basket case, running around screaming, "MOMMY, MOMMY, SAVE ME PLEASE! HELP. HELP. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!"
He's almost grown up. I will be curious to see how I behave when I'm alone when they come through.
As far as how to be safe, besides heading out for the cottage, which clearly would not survive a direct hit - well. I consider praying, but being a nonreligious person that would just be hypocritical and I'd go to hell if I got killed. So that's out. Mostly, I do what I can to keep him and me safe and then realize that the rest is just happenstance. If a tornado looks down and sees me and thinks, "OOOH! YUMMY!!!" well, I'm just dead meat, that's all there is to it, and one just hopes it happens fast.
But I really don't focus that much on the potential for damage. It's there - such is life. But it doesn't dictate. For now, I consider tornadoes an opportunity to bond a bit with my boy. And when he's gone and I'm alone, I'll have to discover new meanings in them.