Fast-forward 15 or so years and the truth is I think we're all a bit undone by the weather. A devastating tornado will do that. Who but the most stoic among us isn't scared witless by such raw power?
But more unnerving than one single event -- or even a collection of them -- is the eerie knowledge that, with climate change, the heavens are out of whack and new weather patterns are wreaking havoc. With each passing season we learn that the unusual has become the expected.
Yesterday, USA Today shared the depiction of Tornado Alley below. It looks so innocuous, for those of us sitting outside the red zone, doesn't it?
Don't be fooled:
- ...but where once most Americans could watch the danger and drama of a big, killer twister with a certain detachment, changes in weather, demographics and culture have all but obliterated such a comfortable remove.
Literally and figuratively, Tornado Alley now could be almost anywhere; the alley is more like a field that seems to spread by the year.
You see that little bit of neon green in Illinois, just beneath Lake Michigan? It's a flood warning, and I made the mistake of clicking on it. And one or two layers in I found this rather dire forecast from the NWS:
- It is not a question of if but when Chicago, Rockford, and nearby areas will see a violent tornado. Much of northern Illinois and northwest Indiana has not seen such a tornado in many years, and especially an outbreak of significant tornadoes. But no one should be complacent because of that, as climatology indicates it certainly can happen.
One of the last times the NWS issued a tornado warning in my area, I was heading home from an evening swim with my kids in tow. In the space of two miles, the weather turned from mild to violent, with torrential rain blowing horizontally against the car at one point. Was I scared? You bet. Did I feel prepared? Not in the least. But once curbside, and as a lull came up, we made a break for the house, headed to the basement, and made an adventure out of it.
Now that I've dug around a bit in local and national tornado data, do I think I'd be any more prepared than I was then? Not so much. Frankly, the data is scary.
For a calming affect, though, what I will do is call to mind this data visualization on tornado strikes that's been circulating of late. I don't know why I find it soothing, but I do. Maybe it's a reminder to stay calm amid the powerful force of nature.