Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tornado sheltering

Whenever I'm traveling and people ask where I'm from, I say Kansas City. Notice the City on the end of that. First, no one would ever know where Olathe, Kansas, was, so I can't say that. And, if, instead, I say simply Kansas, I will inevitably hear any of a number of The Wizard of Oz references. "Where are your ruby slippers, Dorothy?" "Well, you're not in Kansas, anymore!" "Did you follow the yellow brick road to get here?" It goes on and on and on and on and on. It's annoying, quite frankly. Especially when each person thinks that they are the first person to have thought up said reference. Even when we were traveling in Australia, people we met from everywhere in Europe and Australia all knew The Wizard of Oz references. Because, unfortunately, all over the world, Kansas appears to be most known for a 1939 movie about a pigtailed farm girl and tornadoes.

The interesting thing is that while Kansas is known for tornadoes, it has always seemed to me that other states get more tornadoes and more damage. While tornado warnings and watches are fairly common here, actual tornadoes never really get that close. Well, unless you count Greensburg, Kansas, which was completely flattened by a EF5 tornado in 2007. Oh, and now we've got Joplin, Missouri. While not in Kansas, it is right on the border, and only about three hours away from here. Scary stuff. At least for me. Cory often laughs at how serious I take some of the warnings. A lot of my friends who have grown up here don't treat warnings with all that much significance. They are fine staying at the bar or restaurant while the sirens are wailing. I'm not. I'd prefer to be in a basement. Perhaps it is because, while I have lived in Kansas for the majority of my life, I spent many of my formative years tracking hurricanes in North Carolina. An entirely different natural disaster to be wary of, but one you could track for days in advance. None of this 20 minutes notice crap.

I have to be careful now that Molly is getting older. I often forget how much she picks up on. The other morning, while watching my standard Today show, Molly caught sight of the devastation of the Joplin tornado. I didn't even know she was paying attention. She asked me what happened, and I had to explain that it was a tornado. I don't think she even understands the concept. She just thinks that a tornado is a big mess, because that's all she saw on the TV.  "We don't have tornadoes at our house,  Mommy, cause our street's not a mess like that." She sees the result, not the actual storm. And, I was fine leaving it like that. I didn't think she needed to be scared about thunderstorms. Next thing you know, she'd be terrified any time there was thunder and we'd end up with another person in our bed with every thunderstorm. So, I didn't explain further.

Fast-forward two days. She's at dance class and the tornado sirens start blaring. We were hearing reports of tornado touching down mere miles from where we were. We stayed in the basement of the dance studio waiting for it to pass. She heard me on the phone to Cory talking about how he was in the stairwell at work. Now, she started understanding it a bit more. She came and sat in my lap, scared. Everything turned out ok, and we were able to drive home safely. I haven't discussed it much further with her. If she asks about it, I'll have to figure out what to say, I guess. I have never mentioned anything about people dying in tornadoes. Then again, I've never even broached the subject of death with her, so I guess that's a whole other beast to tackle. Yeesh. So, I guess we'll see if she starts sneaking into our bedroom at night the next time there is a thunderstorm. I do know one thing I won't be doing. I won't make her watch The Wizard of Oz. Those flying monkeys are creepy and the witch on the bicycle is a little terrifying. If those don't make you scared of tornadoes, I don't know what will.

Which is scarier?
The Witch and Flying Monkey.
Or this?
Downtown KC on Wednesday. Photo credit.


  1. Yeah, Joplin is actually only about half an hour from me, and the storm got as close as 10 minutes from my town.

  2. I would rather be safe than are right to take the warnings seriously! Unfortunately, I think some in Joplin did not and now will not be here to take the next one seriously. Tornadoes are way too unpredictable to not take seriously.....please stay safe.....hence, why I moved back to AZ!