Sunday, March 27, 2011

Look in the sky Toto...

Spring has arrived in the south.  It is beautiful.  The trees are blooming, bulbs are pushing up, and the temperature is wonderful.  Everyone is sporting their flip flops and jockeying for position on the patios and decks of local restaurants and bars.  I have lived in Atlanta since 1990.  In that time, there have been a handful of scary moments with the weather, specifically tornadoes.  Just a few years ago, downtown was ravaged by a twister.  The storm struck the 71,000-seat Georgia Dome at 9:45 p.m. during a Southeastern Conference tournament basketball game. It shattered windows and tore roofs from buildings, including CNN Center, before continuing into several residential neighborhoods.  We are in-town dwellers, and that was a pretty scary storm.  We were oblivious to it, in the midst of hosting a dinner party, but someone did comment that it was a little windy outside.  Just down the street, literally, less than a half mile, the tornado devastated Cabbage Town and other close by areas.  Of course, no matter how severe, how traumatic a Georgia tornado is, I always think to myself  "buck it up, you are a Kansas girl".  My sister, also a Kansas girl, is scared of all dramatic weather.  We call her 'Severe Weather Heather'.  We tease her, but she really does take the weather seriously.  Now, I am not trivializing a tornado.  They are serious and they are to be respected, but I grew up in Kansas.  Imagine a tornado warning, not once a season, but a few times a month during the spring months.  Kansas has tornado sirens that blare when the sky turns that suspicious shade of green.  Throughout the year, the sirens are tested, and man, they are loud.  The dogs would howl and I would hold my ears until the test stopped.   That is a sound I carry with me to this day.  I can never forget it.  I have only heard a warning siren once in Georgia.  It was a pitiful little sound, almost like a kitten crying for it's mother.  

I remember a Kansas tornado was when I was about 13 or 14 years old.  My great grandmother had been visiting us while my mother was recovering in the hospital from surgery.  Dad and I were driving home from the hospital and the sky had turned that dark, scary green.  The air was heavy and you could feel scary weather approaching.  The sirens were blaring on and off.  My sister and great grandmother were at the house alone, and I was petrified our little dog Buffy was running free in the back yard, with Heather, ready to be picked up by the pending tornado.  This was in the days before cell phones, so we could only guess that my great grandmother was still watching her "shows", oblivious to the warnings going off.  We raced home and ran inside.  My father got us all into the basement, grandmother, sister, dog and myself.  Heather immediately got on her tricycle and rode around in circles.  My great grandmother declared that "dogs draw lightening, so keep that dog away from me", and sat down on a folding lawn chair. Huh? I took a minute to ponder if that was a scientific fact, since this was the same woman who told me the summer before that menstruating women should not walk through vegetable gardens, as they can cause the plants to die.  My father did what all good dads in Kansas do during a tornado warning.  He left the basement, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and walked to the middle of the street where all the other Kansas dads were talking and pointing to the sky.  I have a theory that dads actually like these tornado warnings as it gives them a little male bonding time away from the kids and wife.Also, they feel important because they can come back and report what is happening.  During this occasion, the funnel cloud passed and all was fine.  

I am a good Kansas gal, so I am prepared and know where to go in my house in case of a tornado warning (back room of the basement).  If we ever have to run for cover, I plan on making sure my husband and kids are safe, then I am going to grab a beer and head for the middle of the street to stare at the sky.  I doubt there is a dad's bonding club on my street, so I can encourage anyone who wants to drink a beer and look up at the sky, to do so with me.  I will probably wax poetic about my tornado chasing days in Kansas (cough, cough) and talk like I know a thing or two about sever weather.  In the many years I lived in Kansas, a tornado never touched down near us.  There was always a lot of work up to a warning, and typically, not much happened besides getting to spend some quality family time in the basement.  You know, I never did find out if dogs really do draw lightning,  and I will keep our dog Spud at arms length during storms just in case.  I still use having cramps as an excuse not to tend to our backyard garden sometimes.  You cannot be too careful.   

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