I’m sitting here enjoying a dark, wet afternoon, listening to the thunder rumbling in the background.  Mary just came upstairs to tell me that we’re under a thunderstorm warning, and there are tornado warnings to the south of us.  I don’t know whether it is likely to worsen here or not, but at least for now I’m rather enjoying it.  

I grew up in the Kansas City area, in the midst of the tornado belt.  I remember the tornado alerts being a prominent feature of every spring and summer.  They were pretty frightening, I have to say.  Especially to a child.  Loud sirens, fire trucks and police cars cruising the streets sounding warnings, and of course that was all happening in the midst of a violent electrical storm.  I don’t suppose all that happens now–the sirens and firetrucks warning people to take shelter–no doubt the warnings are delivered on TV and radio, and via the internet nowadays.   

I’ve lived in Australia for 31 years, and during that time I’ve never witnessed thunder and lightning like that in the American midwest.  The conditions that produce tornados are awesome.  I quite enjoy a good storm, but when it reaches that pitch I cease to have fun.

For those of you who don’t live in tornado-prone areas, let me just say their destructive power is enormous, and sometimes deadly — not unlike that of a severe hurricane, but concetrated in a short space of time.  The main difference is the speed with which it all happens.  Unlike an approaching hurricane, there is very little warning.   It comes, and is gone again, in a matter of moments.  You can’t batten down the hatches; there is no way to prepare for it.  The best you can do is seek shelter below ground. 

Fortunately, I was never actually in the midst of a tornado as a child.  There was one that skimmed the roof tops of my neighborhood when my own children were little, but my house experienced only minor damage.  Some of my neighbors were harder hit. I can assure you, though, we were in the basement when we heard the sound of the locomotive overhead!

My husband was a child in London during the war and he used to describe the experience of going down into the bomb shelters and listening to the bombs, and the doodlebugs, wondering if this one had his name on it.  It sounded a bit like the fears I had as I watched the sky exploding with thunder and lightning and hail beating down, and the ubiquitous sirens warning of imminent danger.  I must say, tornados are one of the things I don’t miss from my past.

Meanwhile, there is nothing quite like a good thunderstorm  to put me in the mood for curling up with a book.  Unless, of course, the lights go out.  I don’t suppose that still happens much anymore, but it sure did when I used to live in tornado alley.  Once the storms started, out would come the candles.  It was important to light one of them straightaway.  If you didn’t, and the lights went out, you were left to grope around in the dark trying to find the matches and the candles. 

But for now it seems we are only threatened by flash floods and a torrent of memories.           MM

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