Tornado sirens and taking shelter have been a part of my life since always. I do not remember not knowing about finding a safe place in the basement or storm cellar. The next best thing is under a sofa or a bed against a wall or in a hallway in the middle of the house or building. Where I went to school, tornado drills were held as often as fire drills.
My up close and personal tornado experiences were scary, even traumatizing. When I was 15 an F5 tornado tore a 22 mile, ½ mile wide swath from southwest to northeast Topeka. My childhood home was located on the northeast edge of Topeka. On June 8, 1966, around 7:30 PM, I stood in my front yard while the atmosphere around me turned an eerie green and the deafening silence was overwhelming.
The sirens began wailing. I watched my sister and cousin come tearing down the street with a toddler in a stroller. Dad came tearing out of the house telling us to get to the basement. When he joined us shortly, I knew the tornado was pretty bad. Dad never came with us to the basement. He was usually outside playing macho man, ready to fight the weather, I guess. I can also report that an F5 tornado does sound like a train and a jet. And this noise was as deafening as the silence. There is a lull in the action, when the eye passes over, where the stillness is palpable.
Another tornado experience happened in 1982 or 1983. The girls and I were driving to Kansas in our Toyota Corolla. We were on I-29 north heading towards I-670 south around the north side of the Kansas City metropolitan area. The weather was looking a little unstable. I saw the eerie green light and the trees twisting the same time as the radio blared out the tornado warning. The clouds were twisting, and forming and un-forming a circle, dropping down from the wall cloud a little to the north and west of us. Then the rain, thunder, lightning and hail hit. The car was shaking. We survived and lived to tell.
There are other stories; a freaky November tornado rolling across Topeka and dropping down one street over from Mom and Dad’s house the week before Thanksgiving. The sirens went off the same time as all of the windows and doors blew open and we were running for the basement. There was the time I crested a hill between Lawrence and Topeka when I saw boiling and roiling, very angry looking black cloud bouncing up and down out of a huge black wall cloud.
I could go on with my accidental and surprise brushes with the funnel cloud. Today’s post is about Mike’s penchant for seeking out storms, tornados, etc. He was a trained weather spotter in Kansas. Since I have met him we have been chasing storms, been caught in storms and been scared in storms. We always try to stay outside the dangerous zone, far enough away to take pictures and observe. We have been caught a few times, we had a hail damaged windshield to prove it. One time Mike threw the car in reverse and backed out of the way of a dangerous downdraft from a wall cloud. It was a weird tornado spawning storm that did most of its damage after dark.
Tonight, I barely registered a protest as we drove out west to see what the storm was doing near Farmville. We watched from a distance and saw some pretty scary looking clouds. Eventually they dissipated and we came home, ready to chase another day…………………..
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