Tuesday, May 24, 2011
When I was a child living in Chicago in the 1960s, there were a string of terrible tornado seasons. While the twisters didn't come for us in the city, we felt the same weather systems. The sky turned green and the air pressure did strange things; the air one minute thick and damp and heavy turned wild and windy the next. Neighboring Will County was struck hard. For years afterward, every time my parents would take me on a car trip out of town, I was seized by terror that we would pass through Will County and be attacked by tornadoes. My mother later recounted to me that if they saw a "Will County" sign they would try distracting me so I wouldn't notice it and freak out.
This year the U.S. has been struck by waves of killer tornadoes: a few weeks ago in the South, yesterday in Missouri and today in Oklahoma. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands of people have been injured or lost their homes and belongings to the wind. In times like these it doesn't really seem useful to wonder — or possible to know — if these storms are just something nature is doing right now or if they're related to climate change (bizarrely we even had a small tornado here in Brooklyn a couple years ago and this is surely not tornado alley). But if I still remember the fear of being even a few dozen miles from tornadoes, I can't imagine how frightening it must be to live near where they're causing such suffering right now.
I know at least two of my regular readers live in prairie states right under those winds. Be safe, my prayers are with you. I sure hope you have basements!