Storm Chasers

We lost three veteran storm chasers — Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and Carl Young — near Reno, Oklahoma last Friday night when an EF3 tornado turned into them. That same storm swept a Weather Channel vehicle 200 yards off the road. Fortunately, none of the occupants was Tim S - Storm Chaserseriously injured.

Chasing tornados is a dangerous business, one I don’t care for. Storm chasers have given us good information over the years and they’ll keep chasing the storms because there is more to learn and more technology to develop to help them do so. However, I think some storm chasers are in it as much for thrills as they do for living at the edge of danger. I don’t believe that the three killed were in just for kicks; their work had been featured on the Discovery Channel and they also received grants from the National Geographic Society. The Storm Prediction Center noted that one of the chasers was a “respected researcher and friend” who brought engineering, science, writing and videography to storm chasing.

We’re somewhat safe where we live but we’ve had small tornados within 15 miles or so from our house. Once we had a water funnel pass directly over our house. I’m glad it was a water funnel because a tornado would probably have killed four of us. In case you don’t know, a water funnel is a tornado that doesn’t touch ground.

While we are safe (relatively), we have relatives living in harm’s way. One of my sisters (Kathy) lives in southwest Missouri in Tornado Alley and we have a sister-in-law (Sheila, a widow) living in what she says is called “Dixie Alley”.

Kathy and her husband (Dennis) built a nice retirement home for themselves and during construction almost saw it wiped out by a tornado. It was too close for comfort for him. The storm rearranged some of what he had done, but thankfully, didn’t tear up too much. They’ve lived in the town for many, many years so tornados are something they live with. Last Friday’s storms brought them a couple of tornados that touched down about eight miles away. I called them over the weekend to see if their house was still on its foundation or if it was forcefully moved to eastern Missouri or Illinois. Thankfully, it was still on the foundation. Kathy and Dennis were safe…this time.

Sheila lives in Dixie Alley. Dixie Alley area includes much of the lower Mississippi Valley. It stretches from eastern Texas and Arkansas across Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, upstate South Carolina, and reaches as far north as southeast Missouri and southwest Kentucky. Dixie Alley may have the biggest risk for tornadoes with five of the nation’s top 10 tornado cities. The Memphis Weather Net blog has a nice article titled 11 Rreasons why Mid-South tornadoes are so insidious.

Sheila tells us some of the times she sits in her bathtub wearing her helmet and armed with her gun and flashlight. She also has her blankets and pillow. Thankfully, her house hasn’t been damaged, but she has spent many hours in her bathtub expecting her house to blow apart at any moment.

Storm chasersI’ve been through many, many types of storms on land and at sea and I can honestly say that tornados are the worst storm we can have. God doesn’t create tornados to punish us for our sinful ways and the President doesn’t create them to rid the country of Republicans. We can’t stop living and seek shelter when we hear tornado warnings; all we can do is keep living and hope one doesn’t form in our back yard.

So stay safe…and watch the weather.