I have written two posts on tornadoes this spring. The first was called "TORNADO-PHOBIA" and the second was after the disaster across the south a few weeks ago called "TO ALABAMA".
Last night Joplin, Missouri got destroyed in a tornado much like the one that demolished Tuscaloosa, Alabama. At the time of the writing ninety people were killed last night in Joplin. Joplin is close to home. Joplin is about two hours drive due south from Kansas City.
There were numerous tornadoes in Missouri last night. One of the television stations had a helicopter up in the air following the system as it crossed the state. About a hundred miles from Kansas City it caught the formation of a tornado, followed it dropping to the ground and hitting trees down below it. It started in a rural area but quickly started to zero in on the town of Waverly. Just when it looked like Waverly would be spared, the tornado took a sharp turn to the south and clipped the edges of the small town. Not a lot of damage was incurred, but then again it was a small tornado.
Sitting there watching this tornado take shape and drop and how fast it moved across the country side and then watching it randomly go in any direction cause you to stop and think. My tornado-phobia was heightened a little yesterday. This morning when I awoke to see the devastation in Joplin, it definitely reinserted itself in my psyche. Within two weeks my adopted state of Alabama and my beloved home state of Missouri had suffered huge numbers of deaths from these storms that come out of nowhere. As of this morning ninety people had died in Joplin. Many more than that died in the Tuscaloosa tornado.
Technology keeps getting better and better. The technology of 1957 when my neighborhood was destroyed by a tornado was practically nothing compared to the technology of today. Yet these monsters of nature still seem to be able to outwit human understanding and knowledge and strike without warning, or very little warning at the least. There is nothing that can stop them.
I keep seeing that footage yesterday from that helicopter and marvel at the power and speed of what is considered a small tornado. The tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa, Joplin and Ruskin tore a path over a mile wide in each of them. I think of what the death toll would have been in Tuscaloosa and Joplin had we not had the technology we do today that helps us at least suspect where a tornado may form.
A lady I work with said her niece had been trying all night to try to contact her step father and had been unsuccessful so far. Another lady told the tale of her sister out looking for her daughter in law that had been away from her house last night and had not found any evidence of her yet.
My heart goes out to my fellow Missourians to the south of me. They need help. Help is looking to be stretched pretty thin right now though. Over the weekend the local news had reported a couple of stories on kids from both Missouri and Kansas who had gone to Alabama to help with the clean up down there. The Mississippi river is flooding running people out of their house and destroying farmland. More people are heading to the flood ravaged areas to help out the flood victims. That is what we do in the United States. We help each other. Who is going to help Joplin now? I imagine that not only people from Kansas and Missouri will migrate down there, but also people from Oklahoma and Arkansas will filter into the Joplin area. It is a testament to the heart that Americans have with in themselves.
I realize that had that system been centered just a little more to the north, I might have been one of the unlucky victims who these storms hit with out prejudice.
I think I am more aware of the tornado season this year then I have been in the past because of the closeness it has come to me. I have family that live in the Tuscaloosa area and I am so thankful to God that all of them made it through that storm safely.
I have cousins who live close to the Joplin area that could have been caught up in the storm but were not. Again thank you God for that.
I think I came to realize today that my tornado-phobia goes way beyond any personal danger. I am sure that a tornado could clip the south side of Kansas City at any time and I may be homeless or dead. The phobia transcends that though. It goes to family members and friends that may be caught up in these storms whenever the conditions mix up a deadly recipe for one of these storms to drop out of the sky.
I have family all over the tornado hot spots in the United States. I have cousins and Aunts who live in western Kansas. I have Uncles and aunts and cousins that live on the eastern side of Missouri. I have all kinds of family in Alabama and of course some of my closest family members here in western Missouri. Family also resides in Tennessee and Georgia. My wife has the better part of her family living in Iowa. That is a lot of family living in tornado active areas. That isn't counting all the friends I have living where these monsters are most likely to hit.
I have been extremely lucky so far. But so many Americans living in these areas have not been. People have been killed. Families have been destroyed. Lifetimes of work and savings are gone. Yes, I have been extremely lucky. I am not sure if my phobia has been re-enforced because of the severeness of the storms or because how closely they have come to effecting me.
I think it is a little of both. I do know that after seeing that live footage of a tornado forming and heading towards Waverly, Missouri so fast and out of the blue, it may not be a phobia at all. Being aware of tornadoes and the damage they can do and taking them seriously may just be tornado common sense as opposed to tornado-phobia.
God bless the Mississippi Valley, Alabama, southern Missouri and southern Kansas as they begin to and continue to rebuild from this horrendous spring thus far.
I sincerely hope the rest of the spring is of a gentler persuasion from mother nature.
P.S. I just got home from the office and my neighbor stopped me to talk. Yesterday afternoon his son had stopped by to visit him for about twenty minutes before heading down US-71 to pick up his son in Arkansas. He was ten miles this side of Joplin when the tornado hit. Bob said it was a "head stopper" to think how close he came to losing his son.