Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Whimsical weather, what you wish for warrant weariness

June 11, 2008

It's occurred to me a couple of times recently that I may have tempted fate when I complained a few weeks ago that I'd never seen a tornado.

It seemed, at the time, a reasonable point to make. I mean, after all, here I've lived most of my 66 years in Kansas (all of it except for four years in the military and a couple of brief interludes in Colorado and Missouri) and yet have never had that most quintessential of Kansas experiences.

I made the point at the time, but I'll make it again: I'm not complaining.

I had occasion to reflect on that a few times in that last couple of weeks as I stood on the deck outside our home and watched angry clouds roil overhead. A few times it seemed as if the clouds were about to start rotating, and I had the sense that, if continued it might develop into a full-fledged tornado with me in, or uncomfortably close to, the vortex.

As it happened, the clouds passed by with no more harmful effect - at least on me personally - than a little rain and wind.

I even did a little research and determined that the clouds I thought seemed so threatening - pouch-like mammatus clouds, according to a University of Illinois Web site - are usually seen after the worst of the storm has passed.

I'm a heartfelt subscriber to the principle that it's always a good idea to be careful what you wish for. I'd still like to see a tornado sometime - just not from the inside, thank you. I don't want it to be the last thing I see.

Also, while we're on the subject:

¢ I heard the other day that authorities are concerned that so many tornado victims have perished while attempting to ride out the storm in their vehicles. I guess it's understandable that people might think they'd be safer inside their car than lying down in a ditch, but that must be one of those situations where the reaction that goes against common sense is the safest one, like steering in the direction of the skid in a car. It makes more sense if you look at photos of cars that went through a tornado, such as the one online at It's hard to see how anything could live inside that lump of twisted metal.

¢ I've about had my fill of the local television stations' "reporting," if that's the proper word, of severe storms. Certainly the electronic media can play a vital role in informing the public about impending or developing storm activity. But the sort of hand-wringing, sky-is-falling histrionics that ensues every time the weather gets bad is little short of panic-mongering, in my view. Give it a rest, please.

¢ I took some comfort from the fact that the sirens did not blow the last few times we had severe storms. Sounding the alarm when it's not absolutely necessary will, in the end, create more problems than it solves. The last thing you want to happen is for people to get so used to hearing the sirens that they ignore them. We all know the story of the little boy who cried "wolf."

This has been a weird summer. It seems to have been wet and cold for much of the year. But weather patterns are nothing if not predictable. The day will come before long when we'll look back with fondness, even longing, for days like those we've experienced recently.


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