Monday, June 27, 2011

Busy month!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I haven't disappeared. I have not been home for most of the past month.

My best friend's family recently bought a new house about 20 miles outside the Oklahoma City metro area on the shore of a nice lake. It needed quite a bit of work before they fully moved in, so I spent most of the first two weeks in June helping them out and spending some quality time with my best friend. Ever since I've had to take a break from school, we have seen little of each other, especially since she spent the spring semester in Sicily. Unfortunately, Internet access is quite sparse out there.

Subsequently, my best friend and I traveled to Iowa for 5 days for the wedding of one of our closest friends. I am incredibly happy for her and her new wife. I only wish that we could have celebrated this wonderful event at home in Oklahoma, but, disgustingly, like the rest of the Bible Belt, Oklahoma has banned gay-marriage.

After that, I had only 4 days of rest at home before leaving for a vacation with my family. We are spending the week in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas. Hopefully I will be back home this weekend and will resume regular posts next week.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tornado Outbreak

As anyone in the US who has paid even the slightest attention to the news the past week knows, there was an enormous, multi-day tornado outbreak last week over much of the Midwest and South. Unfortunately, I got caught in the middle of it just a few hours after my last post.

When I woke up that morning, I knew there was a good probability of tornadoes. I grew up and currently live in central Oklahoma, where there have been more tornadoes per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. I've witnessed more than I can count, including the strongest tornado ever recorded (the Tri-State tornado of 1925 was probably stronger, but no meteorological data was recorded). The reason I suspected we were in for tornadoes that day is the "feel" of the atmosphere. The air was extremely still and the humidity was oppressive. It's actually a hard phenomena to describe, but anyone who has lived here for more than a couple years knows what you are talking about. It's almost as if the atmosphere is pressing down on you and every breath feels like you're in a steam room.

A quick glace of the morning news confirmed my suspicions. Meteorologists were predicting a tornado outbreak for the afternoon. So, my mother and I made preparations. We collected all of our important papers, valuables, and photos and placed them in the master bathroom, the only completely interior room in our house. We also gathered first aid supplies, just in case, and carriers and leashes for our pets. This is our routine every time an outbreak seems likely. That way, if a tornado does come our way, the only thing we have to worry about grabbing is our pets.

It wasn't until 3 o'clock that thunderstorms began to develop and move in. Around 4 o'clock, a tornado formed about 30 miles southeast of us. I wasn't immediately concerned because tornadoes do not usually stay on the ground that long. But the damn thing kept getting closer and closer. My entire family was watching the meteorologists on the local news and their prediction of the tornado's path. At first, it looked like it was going to pass through the relatively rural area between my town (Moore) and the town just south of us (Norman). Unfortunately, it began to turn to the north. Soon, the projected path went right through my neighborhood. I knew we were in for a direct hit.

Typical of Oklahomans, at this point I went outside with my dad. Because their was so much rain, we actually could not see the tornado as it approached, but the wind began to pick up quickly. We ran back inside the house (much to my mother's relief) and took shelter in the bathroom. And then we waited. For a couple of minutes, it was extremely tense. We knew it was coming. We continued to wait. And wait. And wait.

Nothing happened. I opened the bathroom door so we could better hear the TV we had left on in the living room. It turns out the tornado lifted right after it crossed into the city. The immediate danger was over. Quite reveled, we went outside. Our yard had quite a bit of debris in it, mostly insulation.

Over a week later and I'm still amazed at how lucky we were. That tornado was given an EF 4 rating. If it had stayed on the ground for just 5 more minutes, it would have devastated a densely populated area, including my neighborhood. 

I wish I had some pictures to show, but we never actually saw the tornado from our house. I apologize for taking awhile to write about this. I have spent a good part of the past week helping out friends whose farm was badly damaged by the same tornado.

I'm not exactly sure why this tornado season has been so active and violent. There has been 3 major outbreaks in the past 6 or 7 weeks, not including the tornado-producing storms in Massachusetts 2 days ago. I deeply hope  we won't see another outbreak this year.