Tornados: too enthralled to be really scaredI have seen several tornados nearby. Although Fairfax, VA is not normally thought of as a tornado area, we get 2 or 3 every year in the late summer. I loved the Wizard of Oz, and was fascinated by the idea of a tornado picking things up and (sometimes) setting them down again safely.
When I was about 10, we were shopping, and Mom said we should go home right away because there was a tornado warning. We got into the car and hadn't gone far when the wind picked up and there was a roaring sound, and then I saw it - a huge green funnel moving along as it twisted (we live in Virginia, and tornados here are always green having mostly trees and stuff to suck up). "Mom!", I said, "that is so awesome! Let's go closer! I want to look!" She wouldn't answer me, but just kept driving with her lips pressed really tight.
In 10th grade, a tornado passed through the parking lot of the Christian (and rather strict) private school I attended, and picked up a school bus. It dropped the school bus onto a liquor store several miles away, demolishing the building and most of the stock. No one was hurt, and both were covered by insurance, but the papers had a field day with the ironic headlines. In photos, both the "Fairfax Christian School" on the bus and the word "Liquor" on the sign were still visible amid the wreckage
In 11th grade (now attending government school), a tornado passed through the Kings Park subdivision and picked up half of a split level ranch, the half without a basement, and set it down again 6 ft away. A friend from school was sleeping in the half that was picked up. From his point of view, he says the wind was really loud and shook the house, but he went back to sleep. In the morning, the power was off, but nothing else seemed amiss. Until he opened the bedroom door and almost fell into the six foot gap between the bedroom and the hallway. The picture in the paper the next day was pretty cool too.
Four years later, I was attending the local George Mason University. A younger friend was at Woodson Highschool while a tornado passed through the area. The school was supposed to be relatively safe, but it trekked right over the school, and burst the skylight in the gym. Tracy was there. Glass flew everywhere and the roaring maw was right overhead for a few seconds. Many of the kids and adults panicked and ran, and got cut on the broken glass, but no one was seriously hurt.
We have had one hurricane arive in Fairfax with hurricane force winds still intact. That was scarier because the damage was so widespread. We sat in the house for more than 24 hours while the winds drove the rain horizontally, but our house and the trees protecting it stood firm. Once I felt that the house was ok, the song of the wind was rather soothing. Power was out everywhere for days. We cooked on the camp stove and ate the freezer stock for 4 days. We had loaded it up with freezer bricks and ice in containers before the storm so stuff would stay cool if not frozen for several days. Power was out in some spots for weeks.
Tornados seem so much more capricious, darting this way and that, and often doing something surprising. When driving home from work in the late summer, with thunderstorms brewing and tornado warnings on the radio, I often see little funnels start to come down from the clouds, but then change their minds and pull up again. My heart beats a little quicker, and I feel more alive. Yes, I know they can kill me if I am in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that knowledge brings a little thrill of fear. But the drama and excitement they bring to my life far outweigh the risk in my opinion.
Posted 7/14/2005 at 11:32 PM