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life in tornado land

You know how you can always tell how close someone has lived to a place by their reaction when you mention it?

Well if you mention Kansas and a person says, "that place has some fucked up politics"... you're talking to someone who's done some time here.

if they mention something about scenic rolling hills and perfect sunsets, they're one of those bizarre prairie hippies who haven't left.

everyone else raises eyebrows and says, "you survived the TORNADOES!" because apparently outside of Kansas that's our gig... we're known as the place where people are regularly whisked away by tornadoes like dorothy in the wizard of oz.

So just to clear the air! here's what the tornado situation really is here. I've lived in Kansas almost my whole life and have survived to tell about the struggle being real.

Once a month, on clear days, we hear the sirens being tested. you can hear them from inside a building.

2-3 times a year they go off for real and you're supposed to go to your basement. You have a TV, radio or tablet with you and check radar and look for funny looking hooks or different colors running together... it was funny, when we were in New York we heard lots of these tornado comments, and one night when we were there we did experience a storm and the entire radar was the same even green color. Our radar images in Kansas are so much more exciting. All kinds of reds yellows greens running into each other along lines and fronts, it's great.

Sometimes the weather forecasters will tell you a day in advance that there are storms coming that could produce tornados... if they do that, then the storm will not produce tornados. If they tell you there will be "light rain", then you're in for it. It'll rain, then the storm will escalate a bit, and at some point you'll look outside and say "well the sky is an odd shade of evil green today" and then the sirens go off.

We live northeast of the city. Heat over a city tends to dissipate tornados, which start up in the west and move our way, so it's never gotten to us.

ONCE in the four years since I bought this house, we moved from the outside of the basement to the inside center storage room that's isolated from all the windows. Just once though.

People who do not have basements go to the interior rooms of their houses, or official established tornado shelters, it's very common for apartment complexes and trailer parks to have a shelter.

I have seen rotational activity in a cloud. I have never seen a tornado.

If a tornado touches down, it can take out some houses or a neighborhood. But unlike hurricanes, they don't take out a whole city. Their destruction will be spotty, they'll take out every other house, it just depends on who's displeased Jesus that time around I guess. So you'd be able to go to a neighbors or something. Honestly, hurricanes sound much much scarier. Sure you get warned a week ahead of time, but where would you go?

All these fly-by-night migrant roof repair outfits descend on the city whenever there's a tornado to fix people's houses, and all these stories come out about how you can't trust them, but people look for a good deal and try anyway.

Don't get me wrong, I know there have been enormous tornados like the one in 2007 that was wider than Greensburg, destroyed the town and killed 11 people. And then there's Moore, Oklahoma that has had the awful luck of an F4 or above every 4-5 years. But those stories are rare, and away from the most populated urban areas a bit.

Tornadoes can be dangerous. But when I hear about other areas that have hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, mudslides, or typhoons, I'd definitely rather deal with the occasional tornado. The sirens don't even phase you too much after you live here for a few years, you get used to the interesting weather.


Posts from This Journal by “kansas” Tag


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2015 03:39 pm (UTC)
Bravo!! Bravo!!! Fantastic post!!! As a fellow Kansan I can confirm this post is accurate!!!

I would rather deal with the "possibility" of a tornado than an earthquake or God forbid a tsunami (my fear is drowning in flood waters).....cuz yeah. Where the hell would you go?

I've lived in Kansas my entire life. I have never seen or been in a tornado. I've seen green skies, been in a microburst, experienced hail & high winds...but not an actual tornado.

I love Kansas. We have the best sunsets & amazing storm clouds! Plus when the sun comes up & hits on a field of golden wheat...it's beautiful!

Jun. 20th, 2015 04:07 pm (UTC)
Tornadoes scare me, but so do earthquakes and hurricanes. I'm just a nervous weather nelly :)
Jun. 20th, 2015 05:25 pm (UTC)
I lived in a trailer park as a child. Tornadoes are my natural enemy. The only thing I've ever seen is the cloud left from a funnel cloud. It wasn't rotating, it just dangled like a ribbon, but very close to the ground and moving very fast.

Don't forget that hurricanes don't just have high winds and storm surge, but they can spawn dozens if not a hundred tornadoes

Jun. 20th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
I started first grade in Kansas City, Missouri (close?) and I have two exceedingly clear weather memories. 1. The summer was unbearable (this was 1954-55 - no air conditioning) and 2. The snow was amazingly beautiful. We lived near a huge hill (which was probably tiny but I was 5) and sledding down that hill was the most fun a person could ever have.

Once when my Mom was in the hospital in her town of Charleston, SC, I was there from Seattle to be with her. She was out of it and I was in her room with a nurse's aid who was chatty. She asked where I was from and I told her and she said "Ohhhhh how in the world can you live in a place...

My mind knew she was going to say "where there are earthquakes" and I thought "Honey, you just had half your town wiped out by Hurricane Hugo!!"

But, what she really said was "So close to a volcano." Had I been drinking, it would have been a spit take.

Your premise is spot on!
Jun. 20th, 2015 07:22 pm (UTC)
My college was dead-center of an F5 in 1998; thankfully it was spring break and very few people were there. Cleaning up after it was an experience I'm not anxious to repeat. We lost a few buildings entirely, and several more were unusable into the next year.
Jun. 20th, 2015 07:29 pm (UTC)
ohmigod is that a mathman tornado icon? WIN!

(sorry that happened to your college it sounds awful, hope you were able to rebuild.)
Jun. 20th, 2015 07:33 pm (UTC)
Beware the notorious Mr. Glitch!

It was something of a debacle - less because of the tornado and more because of the terrible way the administration handled it - and I ended up out of there before the end of the next year.
Jun. 20th, 2015 10:37 pm (UTC)
Not much different than here. If someone were to mention they're from KS I would probably laugh about the tornadoes mostly just because I wouldn't want to SAY the thing about the politics because the worst thing would be if they said "What do you mean that's all awesome here!"

Tornadoes to me are scarier (one hit our barn when I was babysitting my siblings) just because they happen so fast. Hurricanes are bad, but I know I personally have the means to drive & leave the state if need be. Not true of everyone to be sure. The one hurricane I was in had weakened significantly before it hit where I was so we weren't particularly worried and it was just kind of windy and rained a lot.
Jun. 20th, 2015 11:42 pm (UTC)
I have lived in a high risk earthquake zone and now live near places that get tornadoes every few years (and we get the occasional earth rumble). I'll take my chances with tornadoes, even though our buildings are pretty resistant and our earthquakes are relatively small.
Jun. 21st, 2015 03:37 am (UTC)
Right? People outside the midwest think they're so scary but they're just not a big deal. The worst part for me is keeping my cats calm because they think I'm taking them to the vet when they get put in the carrier. I was born in 1990, though, shortly after the really bad Hesston tornado in a town 20 minutes away, so I've always assumed that if I was going to get killed by a tornado it woulda taken me out in utero. My mom, on the other hand, has a weird storm phobia and always panicked and made us go to the basement over nothing.

I saw a baby tornado once! It was in 2007 or 2008 near Salina. I was trying to get home between storm bursts and had to pull over and wait for a tornado to pass across the highway at the next exit. It twisted up some of the signs but that was it. After it went past I waited then drove home on the totally undamaged road. The national guard did a training exercise that weekend and one of them told me they were pissed because she had to go find all the tents that got scattered.

Edited at 2015-06-21 03:47 am (UTC)
Jun. 21st, 2015 07:55 am (UTC)
Growing up in Wisconsin, I can remember spending maybe half a dozen evenings in the basement due to tornado warnings, which may have been merely my parents following the tornado sirens assiduously.

One year at summer camp we suddenly were all evacuated from the lake when a funnel cloud appeared over it; thankfully, while it dipped down, it never actually connected.

But my earliest memory is actually of a fully-fledged tornado trundling along parallel to our house, about a mile away. I remember very distinctly taking a bath, when my mom came in, swooped me up, wrapped me in a towel, and took me downstairs to see the tornado. It was such a novel experience that it stuck with me, and in later years I found I was about 2.5 years when it happened.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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