Monday, April 28, 2014
Weathering the weather
It's on, folks! Tornado season, at least in the Twister Belt of the United States, is here. And if the states of the Southeast are in the buckle of the belt, then I'm pretty sure the little county in Tennessee I sit in is the prong. There's about five or six counties in central northern Alabama bordered by three counties in southern central Tennessee, and Lincoln County sits squarely between the other two. And Fayetteville is pretty much dead center Lincoln County. Yep, I'm pretty certain that we are the prong.
I suspect that all media programming this evening will be interrupted by solemn looking and speaking men and women with huge radar screens of reds and yellows and purples and they will be talking about supercells and hooks and vertical wind shear. In fact, the most likely scenario will be that weather alerts will be interrupted by five minute segments of regular programming.
Listen. I'm not trying to minimize this. I just think we all did a lot better when we knew a lot less. I know that tornadoes do a ton of property damage every year, all over the country, and that many people lose their lives to them. But having to sit and listen to weather men and women...excuse me...meteorologists...induce their audiences into a frenzy of fear seems counterproductive. Especially if you consider that the chances of a particular house in a tornado prone area has only around a one in 10 million chance of being struck. (Please don't hold me to my statistics. I'm not a statistician, as my close friends will tell you. But I do consult several choices before reaching a conclusion. Thank you, Google.)
When I was a kid, I barely remember how much information we received about violent weather. Of course, that had to travel via Pony Express and then, later, telegraph, so that's understandable. I'm pretty sure that I simply consulted my parents or grandparents as to their opinion, and I don't really remember anyone freaking out or being even mildly concerned about it. There was a great deal more conversation around what weather had occurred the day before than what weather would occur later in the day or tomorrow.
... if I put my cavalier attitude aside for a moment and look into facts instead of the vacuum of my skull, I discover enough information to cause a few beads of sweat to trickle from my armpits.
On February 29, 1952, an F-4 (207-260 mph winds) struck Fayetteville, Tennessee and was on the ground continuously for seven miles. It destroyed 139 homes, wreaked major damage to 152 more, and took two lives. One hundred and sixty-six people were injured. This was the 4th tornado that followed more or less a similar track over a 100 year period.
On April 29, 1974, two F5s slammed into the Fayetteville and surrounding area, taking six lives in Tennessee and destroying over 1000 buildings.
In all, around 40 tornadoes have toggled the prong of the Twister Belt since 1890.
Uh...that's about one every three years. Looking more closely, there have been 15 since 2000.
So, listen...instead of me sitting here on the south side of the house and typing away at this keyboard as the sky turns to heavy lead all above me, I'll cozy up to the TV and find me some really wise meteorologists to spend some time with. With my wife, the leashes for my dogs, and a fully charged iPhone with a flashlight app.
You see, Toto, we aren't in Kansas anymore. But we are in Tennessee, right square in the doggone prong of the Twister Belt. And that's close enough for me.
Update: 11:28 p.m. CDT...a large tornado touched down in Kelso, TN this evening at around 8:45. The family farm of 175 years took a direct hit. Early reports from Ryan and Callie Hardiman, our co-farmers, is that the buildings didn't suffer a great deal of damage...just some fallen trees. However, and this is in the dark of night, it appears that the land...the trees, the fields, the pastures, the bottom...was devastated. Many head of cattle and calves are unaccounted for. I try not to be angry. I try not to be hurt. I try to put this in the perspective that there has been a lot of devastation over the past couple of days with more on the menu tomorrow. I try to put it in the perspective that lives have been lost. I try to be thankful. As soon as first light appears tomorrow, Geri and I will try to make our way to the farm. We believe our domestic animals are fine. We believe that there is superficial house and barn damage that can be repaired. We fear for the cows and cattle. But I most am dreading the moment my eyes first encounter the devastated land, the century old trees cut down to trunk size or completely pulled up by their roots. I'm dreading gazing upon the ravaged beauty of "the farm," a sight that has brought me many years of joy and peace. And I will probably be angry. And more than sad. I'll just try to make it short and not wallow in it. And get busy trying to put things back together again.