Posted by: Viola | May 20, 2015

Tornado Storms in Oklahoma

Exactly two weeks ago, Oklahoma City was surrounded by a tornado storm. The real-time weather reporting on TV highlighted tornado activity just south of Oklahoma City. Within a couple hours, that tornado activity encircled the city. Tornadoes had touched down in Moore and close to Norman, towns just south of Oklahoma City. There was quite a bit of destruction. Where there was no wind destruction, there was loads of flooding.

My father lives in the northern part of the city. We could see the clouds funneling into the storm. The clouds were dark, making the sky look like it was almost night instead of early evening with a bright sunset. The clouds moved in a relatively horizontal manner, looking like long streaks of wool or cotton instead of lumpy balls or bundles of clouds. This was when I began to understand how to identify tornado storm clouds. They look quite flat, like a bed or mattress of clouds, either in layers or masses but traveling in a flat, straight line, as if someone were holding on to a rope in the sky and pulling that rope along–a rope of clouds.

These clouds are being pulling into the epicenter of the storm, where the funnel-shaped foot of the storm spirals down. (I am not an expert, and I have very limited knowledge of how tornado storms work, but here is more information on how tornadoes form.) There was lightening and thunder. The lightening traveled horizontally, too, and sometimes vertically. There was heavy intermittent rain. No hail, but just very heavy rain, high-speed winds, and a darkened sky.

All I can say is that the storm was quite dramatic, viewing it from where we live, and I was scared. I prepared myself to take shelter. My father’s house has something called a storm shelter or tornado shelter. This is a hole in the floor of the garage, a small room (narrow, basic, looks like a bathroom stall), and it fits about a dozen people, squeezed in (no doubt). It is not spacious at all. Stairs lead down into the hole and the side walls have narrow benches (attached to the wall, I think) where people can sit. A steel door or trapdoor opens up to this shelter. The door is quite heavy and has a latch, and I gather that no amount of wind force can blow that trapdoor open. It’s so sturdy that it can weather any tornado.

The ideal storm shelter needs to be sunken into the ground, and fitted with a strong door. It also needs to be raised a little, so that in the case of flooding, no water gets into the shelter. No one wants to be safe from a tornado but then not safe from flooding, right?

Well, two weeks ago, I was so scared, I got my backpack ready and waited to jump into the tornado shelter if any twisters/tornadoes touched down in northern Oklahoma City. My father said I need not worry because most tornado activity seems to hit the southern part of the city and the towns of Moore and Norman. But I was not reassured. I remained ready for my run to safety.

It is advised that people have items ready to take with them into a shelter. Things like flashlights and bottled water and food can really come in handy. Blankets and warm clothes to spare, also handy. These items should be ready at all times. However, there is typically some warning when tornadoes begin to form and touch down.

The warning of severe thunder storms and tornado storms comes in the form of a loud siren. The siren blows in various parts of the city where people need to be on alert and ready to take to safety. People can also receive alerts by phone or text. A message is sent to people telling them when their area is under threat. The message will say TAKE SHELTER NOW!!!!!!

The message will also be broadcast over TV and radio and internet. So keeping an eye on the news and what’s going on helps. If you don’t see the news, then at least you will hear the sirens whistling like crazy. The sirens sound strange, very mournful and chilling, like someone blowing a horn under water. It sounds like the cry of some wounded sea creature. It is definitely a sound that will make your ears perk up and send you scurrying somewhere safe, if you are like me. 🙂

Since the terrible tornado storms two weeks ago, we have been alright and only endured some heavy lightening and thunder storms. No more tornado activity in our area. But whenever I see dark and flat clouds, I get a little on edge and nervous. On Saturday evening, there was such a storm, and we had to go to an event a few minutes away. As we drove there, heavy rain came crashing down on us.

There was so much lightening and the bolts kept flashing across the sky. Suddenly, in the midst of the heavy rain, a bolt struck an electric pole just ahead of us on the road. Sparks flew up into the air and down onto the road. We froze in the car, wondering what to do, then we quickly turned the car around and drove a short distance, stopping only when we found and parked under the broad roof of a gas station. We could barely see ahead of us due to all the rain. We were terrified.

We waited until the rain had died down. Then we drove home, refusing to go to the event we had set out for. When we got home, the whole neighborhood was pitch black. There had been a power outage. We ate some food and went to bed early. We were in total darkness, but at least we were home and we were safe.

Next week, I will be returning to California. I am sad to leave Oklahoma, since it’s been wonderful visiting my family here. However, I can say with complete certainty that I will not miss the thunder storms and tornadoes. 🙂 I’ll be heading to California to face other weather extremes, like the boiling summer heat and the dry/drought conditions in the California valley. But hey, I am not complaining. I am very grateful to be alive and to have not fully experienced a tornado. It would be much to traumatic for me and my soft heart.

Here’s a song that now makes sense to me, after having spent some time in Oklahoma.

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