Twisters

I grew up in the Midwest. We didn’t have hurricanes or earthquakes or locusts. But we did have tornadoes. And let me tell you something, there hasn’t been an earthquake or rainstorm I’ve ever witnessed that can scare the bageebers out of me, like a tornado can.

The thing about twisters are that you never know where they will touch down. You can see one off in the distance that looks like it’s going right then it tricks you and goes left. It can look like it’s moving away from you and then come right at you. It can flatten your neighbor’s house and leave yours standing without so much as a loosened board. It can suck up and carry anything in its path.

I remember when I was a kid the odd reports we would hear during tornado season. A woman, cooking in her kitchen was sucked into a twister when it blew off the roof of her house. It touched down and dropped her off (without injury) 20 miles away. Farmers had cows sucked up out of their pastures and left at the next town. A family of four were driving down the interstate and the twister picked them up, car and all and dropped them off 100 miles later. Bizarre, Twilight Zone kind of stuff.

It is a natural phenom that is unlike any other I’ve ever seen. The air takes on this really still and heavy quality – as though all living creatures have caught their collective breaths. As though, you are suddenly in a vacuum.

When it looks really bad, people are advised to turn off everything and to head down to the basement to seek shelter. That may be why there are basements in that neck of the woods. Underground panic rooms, where you sit and wait and listen to the newscast and you try to play cards and not be scared but you are anyway. I remember many times, sitting in a quiet basement with my family, no one talking or doing, just listening and waiting.

We had a family friend named, Marge. A great lady who had a beautiful Victorian house on Lake St. Claire. I used to love to go to her house because she always had watermelon and potato salad and you could sit on her big porch and eat, as the breeze from the lake rustled your hair. There was a peaceful quality about her property and her house. It was like a big, friendly hug, that you always loved to have.
We had many, many visits to Marge’s over the years and it is truly one of my fondest childhood memories.

But one year, we had a lot of tornadoes. They would hit suddenly, knocking down whole blocks of homes sometimes. And believe me, there isn’t much left behind – it looks like a giant box of toothpicks was dumped out on the lot. Sadly, Marge’s house was hit by one of those evil funnels of wind and centrifugal force. The beautiful white house with the dark blue shutters and the wind-around porch – nothing but splinters. Marge was okay – she made it to safety and no harm or injury occurred, but the house was gone. She didn’t rebuild as we thought she might. Instead, she moved to another state and I never saw her again. Never sat on her porch eating watermelon and potato salad, never felt that lovely lake breeze again. And I never forgave the twister for that, nor will I ever.

Here in California, we got your earthquakes and sometimes pretty bad rainstorms, but I’d take them anyday over a twister. They don’t call them twisters for nothing. And they still scare the bageebers outta me.

What’s your scariest natural disaster?

WC

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20 thoughts on “Twisters

  1. Oh girl, I completely agreee!!! Having lived in Cali BEFORE living in Kentucky, I know what earthquakes feel like. And hurricanes – I’ve been through 4 of em. Nothing compares to a tornado. Nothing at all. Not knowing when they’ll come down, not knowing where they’ll go or who’s house they’re gonna get. Scary stuff, I tell ya. Makes me want a basement realllll bad.

    Shit, Red –
    You don’t have a basement? Where the heck do you hide from the twister? 😯
    WC

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  2. I have never seen something like this in reality, very impressive, but i guess i would like to avoid to be too close. Things like that do not happen in Austria, but during winter there might be danger from avalanches. I guess this will be not the case in California.
    All the best

    Hey Gerhard and welcome.

    An avalanche sounds pretty scary to me. They might have them in California, in snow country. Actually, contrary to popular belief, the state of California has every kind of weather you can imagine, sunshine, smog, rain, snow, slush, desert hot, cold, freezing. In fact, it snowed two winters ago in my town and we don’t get snow here. Go figure. πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  3. What does a tornado and your wife have in common …when they leave they’ll probably be taking the house πŸ˜‰

    Ger,
    You should come with your own portable rimshot. LOL.
    WC

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  4. Classic supercell, I love it, I live in Southern Indiana where we have our fair share of tornadoes. I lived thru the April 3 1974 Superoutbreak that destroyed half the town of Madison, I have never been thru an earthquake or hurricane, but living thru a tornado will change your perspective on things pretty quickly.

    Hi Bernie,
    I hear you. Talk about gone in 60 seconds, a tornado can do it in less.
    WC

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  5. Hi WC,

    Here on the edge of Memphis, Tn. we have the pleasure of tornadoes and the threat of earthquakes. The worst part of the twisters is that they most often come at night. The weather patterns form over the plains in Arkansas late in the afternoon, and by the time they make it across the river the sun is setting. Add to that the fact that most homes here don’t have basements, due to the high water table, and replace playing cards underground with cowering in an interior doorway.

    Fortunately, this area hasn’t had a major earthquake for around 200 years, even though we are on the New Madrid fault line. Of course, the fault is named for the town of New Madrid, 80 or 100 miles north of here, that was completely destroyed by the last big one, which, by the way, created the only natural lake in Tennessee, that being Realfoot Lake. Fortunately, at that time Memphis was only a small town, so there was little damage. There are several written accounts from the time, however, that report the Mississippi River flowing backward for two days, while the new lake was filling up. The bad news is that, as the scientists tell us, big quakes hit this area about every 200 years. What fun.

    Oh, the neatest tornado damage I saw around here was a 30 foot by three foot sheet of metal roofing that was blown off a factory roof. It traveled 300 or so yards down the road, hit a telephone pole, and a third of its length was neatly twisted around the obstruction, leaving the rest sticking out parallel to the ground like a flag in a good breeze.

    the Grit

    Hi Grit,
    Wow, I would have liked to see the Mississippi flow backwards – that must have been quite a sight. Night tornadoes are very scary, because you can’t see them until they are almost on you – the sheet metal story sounds about right. You get enough wind velocity going and it’s amazing what you can do with sheet metal.
    WC

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  6. Amazing ( but scary) photo – such power in that twisting tornado! We lived in the south eight years and I remember following instructions and heading to the “safe room” every time we had a tornado alert. After a while, nobody did it anymore–it was just a daily given that at around 4:00 we’d be on tornado watch. Never saw a twister like this one, though! I think I’d have moved permanently into that room if I had.

    Hi PB,
    I hope you never do see a twister like that one. It’s one of the scariest things in the world. But I have to agree the photo was an awesome find – really gives you the impact.
    WC

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  7. I know this doesn’t exactly count as a “natural disaster,” but because of all the stories about this lately, I’m kind of afraid of falling off a cruise ship and never being found. Possibly a lover might hurl me from the ship in a jealous fit, or I might just fall off naturally, by accident or something. Anyhow, that would be a major setback. Good blog by the way.

    Wow AB12, sounds like you’ve been watching the crime channel a lot lately. πŸ˜‰ In fact, I think I just saw a story like that, where someone was tossed over the side of a cruise ship and never seen again.

    Thanks for the visit, come back any time.
    WC

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  8. I live mostly through hurricanes.
    Hugo was the scariest for me as a kid.
    I remember I packed my whole room up into my closet onto one side only.
    You see I’d calculated where in fact the tree outside my window would fall in case it was hit by lightning.
    I didn’t want any of my stuff to get ruined. πŸ™‚
    It didn’t.
    Great post. So sad about Marge’s home.
    kim

    Hey Kim,
    LOL – I had to laugh at your industry and ability to figure out what would result in the least amount of damage to your treasured possessions. That’s what I call thinking on your feet. πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  9. my scariest natural disaster is also tornados … though you wouldn’t suspect it edmonton, alberta, canada is on the tornado belt and we had a really bad one back in the late 80s which tore through the city outskirts and killed many people. there was also one a few years ago that tore through a popular lake recreational campground during a busy season and again killed many people.

    i remember once five years ago, i went skydiving, it was a beautiful day and it was the first time i ever jumped from a plane. it was exhilarating and amazing but on the drive back into the city, we had to pull over because of a sudden storm and i saw a tiny twister in the farmer’s field beside the road ~ that scared me more than skydiving …

    very sad about Marge’s home ….

    Hi Daisies,
    I think one of the things that is scary about them is that you have absolutely no control over them at all. You don’t even know what direction they will come or go in – they seem to change at will. Like a giant evil creature chasing you across the horizon. Freaky.
    WC

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  10. Having lived all over the US, I’ve seen them all. Tornadoes are freaky, and I’m glad I don’t live in the midwest, but my biggest one is FIRE.

    Not defined as a natural disaster all the time…it still scares the living shit out of me.

    Hey Jess,
    I agree that fire is scary as shit. We had a house fire next door – the whole thing went up. It was an old clapboard, so that thing really gotten eaten alive. And it happened in the middle of the night. We were scared our own place was going to go up. Luckily the fire department was on its toes that night.
    wC

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  11. My most memorable recurring nightmare as a child was being in the path of a Tornado. Actually I never saw one though………steve

    Hey Steve,
    Isn’t it funny, how you could have a nightmare about something you never saw? My first sight of a tornado was in the Wizard of Oz. I wondered if that primed the fear in the first place. It also took me years before I wasn’t afraid of monkeys. :0
    WC

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  12. Nope! Shooooot! They don’t have basements in the trailer park, missy. Thems for rich folk!
    *rolls eyes* Ha! No, I don’t have a basement. But my neighbor does!

    Well heckfire, girl,
    I didn’t know you were in a trailer. How’s about a root cellar, got one of those? πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  13. hehe! Im not in a trailer.
    Root cellar? Oh geez, I’m stumped. ‘Fraid I’m gonna have to look that one up. Since I dont know what it is, I suppose I don’t have one.

    I must be losing it, I thought that’s what you said was the reason you didn’t have a basement. Root cellar stumped you? Really? Haven’t you ever watched Little House in the Prairie, or any western on t.v.? They all have the root cellar that they hide in when the bad weather comes or the house burns down. It’s a hole in the ground that has a door that you open, so you can climb down into it. Just do a g**gle image search and you’ll get a visual. πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  14. I’m in the Uk, In my lifetime I’ve never seen anything like you American’s have…. Aw!! I wonder what happened to Marge. I would have sure liked that house to. Here’s a Marge House Hug.(((((Hug))))). I’ve enjoyed reading this post and all the replies. Thank you. It’s amazing that some people get sucked into them and they survive uninjured.
    πŸ™‚ Di

    Hi Di,
    What kind of weird acts of nature do you get in the UK?
    WC

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  15. Eeoo, that does sound terrifying. In Australia it’s really all about the bugs and animals that can kill you. You know, spiders in the loo that bite your bum and then you die, that sort of thing! I got bitten by a redback spider a few years ago (not on the bum, sorry, not that exciting) and ended up in hospital. It was awful, I don’t think I’ve ever felt that sick!

    That’s right, you folks do have the freaky nature in the form of creatures, don’t you? I’ve got a couple of spider bites right now – not in the hospital but jeez they itch and are huge. Must have been some critter who didn’t want me to weed the garden last weekend. πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  16. That scared me.

    I ever watched Twister movie. We don’t have tornado disaster here. But we have tsunami.

    Actually, from the descriptions I’ve read, Tsunami’s sound a lot like twisters in that you can stop it once it comes for you and you’re in its path. That is one scary wave.
    WC

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  17. I promise I’ll come back with “weird natural disaster” on a separate comment, but in the meantime I’ve been tagged, and so I’m tagging you! Hope you don’t mind . . .

    Hi! I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve tagged you for eight facts about your life. You can read mine here: http://www.anthropologist.wordpress.com , and then write 8 of your own. The idea is to then tag others, to keep the ideas flowing.

    Hey Marion,
    I couldn’t find anything on your site – but I think I’m familiar with the tag. Pretty sure I did it already but I guess I’ll come up with 8 more things since you asked so nicely. πŸ˜‰

    WC

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  18. So weird that I read this yesterday. My sister got stuck driving through a tornado today with her kids and mother in law in the car. They are all okay thank God. She said it was the scariest, freakiest thing she’s ever seen. Things flying around and around her car, an 18 wheeler was lifted off the over pass and dropped onto the interstate where she was driving. That’s crazy. Crazy. kim

    Glad your sister and her kids are okay. It is freaky how you hear about something one day and the next it’s happening to you or someone you know. A little premonition going on or just coincidence? (cue spooky music) πŸ˜‰
    WC

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  19. I’ve always thought of twisters as kinda cool, but I guess that’s only when they’re happening to someone else.

    I once had a microburst come through which actually made the glass in the windows bend inwards because of the differential in air pressure. I’d never seen glass actually bend before.

    -smith

    Sounds like a bit of a reality adjustment, Smith. Did you get any photographs of that? Sounds incredible.
    WC

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  20. Sorry, no pics. In retrospect I should’ve just hightailed it outta there, but like of course, like a dumbass I had to stay and watch. I hate to think what would’ve happened to me had the glass actually shattered.

    -smith

    I think that freaky phenom prevents us from doing anything but stay and watch. Yep, you are lucky the window didn’t actually blow out – too bad we can’t photograph the picture in your mind though. πŸ˜‰
    WC

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