Thursday, August 09, 2007

i don't think we're in kansas anymore

Every area of the country has its endemic form of inclement weather. Where I grew up, that weather took the shape of roaring, howling funnel clouds that ate up everything in a straight-line path from where they touched down. That's right: I grew up in Tornado Alley. (True story: On the first Monday* of each month at 11 a.m., the towns would test the tornado sirens, and it wasn't until I'd lived away for a few years that I realized that this wasn't something that happened everywhere -- which itself I only realized because I suddenly noticed the silence.)

In third grade -- and then, due to a somewhat hilarious scheduling glitch, again in fourth -- my class sat through a presentation on tornadoes from one of the local meteorologists. I'm pretty sure it was the secondary guy from Channel 5, and I remember that it was Channel 5 (then, at least, the local NBC affiliate) because they were the ones with Doppler Radar before anyone else.

Doppler was a big thing. Every spring, we'd hit a stretch of tornado weather, meaning that I'd go to school and it would be all sunny and lovely, and by the time my mom picked me up in the afternoon, the sky would be turning green and everything would be inhumanly still, so we'd go down into the basement when we got home and I'd do my homework watching reruns of "The Cosby Show" because they were syndicated on Channel 5, which had the fancy-shmancy tornado- and lightning-tracking radar updates.

Anyway, I learned a lot about tornadoes from that presentation, and not just because I sat through it twice. No, I learned with a ravenous hunger for knowledge because tornadoes scared the living crap out of me. I had to know everything I could possibly know about them, just so that I could get to sleep at night when the weather was horrible by telling myself that no, that rainshaft or cumulus mass in the sky was not a wall cloud, there was no internal rotation, and in any case the there would be no spot on the ground for the funnel to build up from (which is key to a strong tornado), as we lived in a hilly and populated area -- but anyway it might be a good idea crack the window to relieve the internal pressure build-up just in case a funnel forms and lowers the pressure outside** and besides, that makes it easier to hear the warning sirens, amen.

Not that I was paranoid.

I've sort of come to look upon those tornado days fondly, not only because I'm an adult who understands that a crazy tornado is not going to reach in my window and grab me (my parents never used to let me watch the sepia-toned part of The Wizard of Oz, and I think it's now clear why), but also because I live far far away from where tornadoes should generally happen.

Or so I thought until yesterday, when there was a confirmed tornado touchdown in Brooklyn.

Really? What the hell? I mean, honestly: I know a lot about this weather phenomenon and it should not happen in Brooklyn.

Or, as Elizabeth put it, "The world is coming to an end." Which is probably not far off the mark, so we need to make plans to get together, or at least get some super-fancy shoes, before the apocalypse.

*Does anyone remember if it was actually Thursday instead? I just remember it always happened during Latin class my junior year, and we could hear the Ladue siren much better than usual from the third floor.

**I know that this is considered a myth, that the pressure differential would not be enough to blow out glass. I don't care.


Elizabeth said...

I think that the tornado testing happened on Mondays - to be perfectly honest, I only just now realized that we don't have it in New York. I just assumed that I was so used to it that I didn't hear it. Not that we don't have plenty of our own street noise to contend with.

When I was little, my favorite game to play was "Tornado," in which I would hide in a closet with a flashlight and read Nancy Drew. Even when I was sleeping over at friends' houses. Which was cause for much consternation one day, when I emerged from a closet on day to find a friend's dad frantically talking to the police about where I could have gone. Parents should really never have only children.

Melanie T. said...

When I was in Louisville KY with Little Women, we had a tornado warning one night and almost had to stop the show. It was crazy, and I had to do signs for the Tornado escape route in that house. That was amusing, I was grateful to not actually have to follow them.