I’ve never seen a tornado – and I don’t really want to.

People sometimes remark that they wouldn’t want to live in a place where tornados occur.

While I can certainly understand that sentiment, I’ve lived 52 of my 61 years in places where tornados can – and do – occur.

from wikimedia --- F5_tornado_Elie_Manitoba_2007

(above) Category F5 tornado (upgraded from initial estimate of F4) viewed from the southeast as it approached Elie, Manitoba on Friday, June 22nd, 2007.

Tornado_AlleyFifty-two years in tornado country and I still haven’t seen one. Thirty-three of those have been in an area highlighted in red on the tornado activity map, on the right.

One tornado came close a couple of years ago, within a couple of miles.  However, there was nothing to be seen from here as the funnel was likely rain obscured.  That storm went on to cause quite a bit of  damage a few miles down the road and, further down it’s path, there was a fatality.

For early warning, we subscribe to a weather alert auto-call notification service from Channel 7 in Little IMG_0256Rock that goes to our phones and e-mail.

We do have a (home made) storm shelter and we have used it a few times in the last couple of years.  Its made of concrete blocks with the holes filled with concrete and rebar.  The ceiling and floor are made of rebar reinforced concrete.  The shelter is actually a safe room inside the house and is partially below grade level of the outside ground. It’s just the right size for the two of us in comfort. It was built first and the addition was built around it.  Right now, we have a couple of chairs down there, some bottle water and some snacks.  When we get a warning, we only grab a few things — phones, computers, med, glasses — and head on down.  With modern communications on our phones and computers, we can determine pretty quickly when  the track of the storm is going to miss us.

Project Vortex-99. Occluded mesocyclone tornado

(above) Project Vortex-99. Occluded mesocyclone tornado. Occluded means old circulation on a storm; this tornado was forming while the new circulation was beginning to form the tornadoes which preceded the F5 Oklahoma City tornado (May 3, 1999 tornado that badly damage Moore, Oklahoma).

Our home may be in a location where it is somewhat protected by the terrain.  We are on the north side of the crest of a ridge that runs east to west – perhaps 5 feet below the highest elevation in front of the house.  Most, not all, tornados seem to travel towards the northeast.  Growing up in Nebraska in the 50s, I remember that the plan if a tornado was coming was that we were supposed to go to the southwest corner of the basement – below ground level on the side the tornado was most likely to come from — the house, if hit, would be picked up and blown away from that side. Our thought, which may not have any validity, is that storms here in Arkansas will usually approach us from the southeast and, following the terrain, may rise up over our place, minimizing the damage.

It doesn’t matter whether we are right on this point or not.

We’re going to be in the storm shelter – protected by reinforced concrete and the earth.

April 11, 1965, Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak

(above) Picture of the “double tornado” that hit the Midway Trailer Park in Indiana, killing 14 — April 11, 1965, Palm Sunday Tornado.

(below) Storm chasers in their car inside a tornado.


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