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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Growing up in Tornado Alley

I grew up in the Peach Capital of the World. Turns out that it is in Kansas, not Georgia. But the Peaches are all gone now. The orchards were wiped out when I was a preteen. A mile wide f-5 (way before they started adding the E) took out all those wonderful trees. It tracked through our town, missing my home by only a few houses, hitting our Air Force base and flattening another small town. 

We watched it form, we watched it descend over our Rodeo grounds. We all ran home. No one I knew was killed that year, but so many of their homes were destroyed. We rode our bikes, gathering friends from their homes, checking in with each other. 

I remember the sound from that storm much more than the plethora of other, smaller tornadoes that I have been through. A freight train was coming through our living room. 

Every year the Peach Capital of the World would hold its collective breath and watch the tornadoes form and drop just outside of our small, somewhat suburban, town. We all grew up knowing what signs to look for, when to take cover, where to take cover depending on where we were at the time, where to meet family after the storm if we were separated. Every spring, and even today, tornado prep, survival and aftermath was a practiced ritual. We knew they were coming. And yet we lived our lives without the constant anxiety that people living outside of tornado alley come to believe we live with. 

Our children can tell the difference between a slc and a supercell. SLC stands for scary looking cloud and are very similar to the looks of a wall cloud. 

Rarely does a tornado catch a community unaware. Unlike other natural disasters. 

But when something like my F-5 or Moore's EF-4 comes through the center of your town, there isn't much you can do but pray. The saying "there are no atheists in a fox hole" is said about towns that live in tornado alley. Ritual makes it easier to deal with. 

Moore, Ok is devastating. Just looking at the pictures reminds me of my risks. I believe I read once that Kansas has on average 211 tornadoes every year. Most taking place between March through June. And the majority creates little property damage and no injuries. 

With social media, these pictures suddenly take on a more personal tone. Even if you don't live in a tornado prone area. It's easier to check in with family and friends. And watching feeds, seems to create even more anxiety among those outside of the fly over States. Please remember the power is out, and loved ones will check in when they are able. Optimism is they only way we can persevere during these times. 

At the top of my page is a link to The Downed Bikers. I belong to their FB newsfeed. Yesterday and this morning it has been heart wrenching watching the members post to the page. Names of children that have been found, but parents are missing, pleas from parents for their children, members calling out other members names hoping they will check in. Not all have yet. The group in based out of OKC, many of the members have been affected.  

My F-5 happened before I met Husband. He was caught in the storm. He hugged the tank of his motorcycle as he watched the tornado hit the Air Force base's hospital. Ripping it apart.  Year after year we watch the devastation of these awesome storms. Grateful for our survival and hopeful for that town. 

Our thoughts today here at the Neophyte homestead are of understanding, love, and heart ache. Those of us that grew up in the heart of tornado alley will all feel the same way. We know. We will banned together and help were possible. We morn with you, we celebrate with you. Our stomachs in knots as we watch the death tolls, and our hearts yearn for news of those missing. 

As much as I love the storms of Kansas, it's different when they actually destroy a town.  Or a home. Storm chasing is an amazing thrill. Watching them form never grows old. Tornado in a field is awe inspiring, but devastating in a populated area.  As you all know. 

Normally I don't comment on these things. But I have been seeing articles coming out of the coasts, belittling those of us that stay in tornado alley. And I want the Midwest to know, that even though I am leaving, my heart stays in tornado alley. It is home.

All my love to you.

I leave you with some photos from my childhood.


Practical Parsimony said...

I live in Dixie Alley. When I tell people in Alabama the name of my town, they comment on all the tornadoes that hit our town and county. Yes, we are on the top of the list. But, I do not live in fear, either. Yes, we know the signs! Anyone who lives on earthquake faults has no reason to criticize those who live and Tornado Alley or Dixie Alley. Good post.

Anonymous said...

I came by and read your article.

Judy T said...

Beautifully said. No matter where you live, there are risks. Tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires or even random crime. I think some people need to find something more productive to do.

Stay safe this season, wherever you roam.

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