May 11, 2009


I'm sitting here watching PBS after midnight. They're showing a BBC documentary about Tornadoes.

I have always, always, always wanted to see a tornado. I have a suspiciously large number of dreams about them, and in each one, I decide that I'm actually finally seeing a tornado in real life and I'm not dreaming anymore. And I always stand outside and gawk and marvel at their hugeness, soak up their sheer destructive power. And then I wake up and awkwardly realize that I still haven't seen a tornado in real life.

Whenever we get a really violent storm and I get the chance to watch it, I scan the sky in morbid curiosity, hoping to catch a glimpse of a funnel cloud forming. They never do. They're rare in Michigan, where our weather is buffeted by Lake Michigan.

My dad has seen them, I think. I've asked him before. He grew up in Iowa. I'm not sure he ever wants to see another one. Iowa is in the tornado alley where, I learned via PBS - and stowed away somewhere in the section of my brain allotted to fifth grade science class - warm winds from the south rise up over cold winds from the north, drifting up into the jet stream where they begin to rotate. The supercells spin and funnel downward toward the ground, and berth the twisters, and throw train cars around like toys and destroy trailer parks. It's a classic joke to make fun of the people who get on the news and stand in front of where their trailer used to be.

This documentary is showing the destruction. You always see it on the news in the spring when a particularly bad one levels a neighborhood somewhere in Kansas. A particularly bad storm occurred in Oklahoma in 1999, and they showed a lingering shot of block after block after block of skeletal remains of houses, acres and acres of garbage and debris and walls and bricks and sinks and typewriters, and trucks where living rooms used to be. A team of storm chasers from England arrive late. They miss the spectacle, and see only the aftermath of entire neighborhoods and towns left completely destroyed. They leave feeling a little... depressed.

And I think... I don't really want to see a tornado all that badly.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Was this "documentary" called Twister starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton? That's where I learned all my information on tornadoes. That and Google of course.