Tornado Awareness Week will soon be upon the state I call home, and since the latest two years have seen historic numbers of twisters, it is a not unimportant thing. Our high-tech Doppler radar can pinpoint storms right down to the street level, but such was not always the case. When I was growing up, a 1977 storm materialized within the space of an hour out of some innocuous showers over the western part of the state, nary a watch posted for our area. It culminated in the local CBS weatherman going live on camera, eyeglasses askew, literally shouting to viewers that a tornado was entering the city about 10 miles away from my tiny town – only to have the station knocked off the air by the twister. Scary as hell. But that’s not the subject of my Traumafession.
On summer weekends that same CBS affiliate would frequently have time to kill before the local news came on at 5:30; sporting events could be unpredictable in their length. And so a frequent go-to was the 1967 educational film “Tornado!” with its 15 minute running time. It reinforced how a day which began in azure beauty could swiftly and savagely turn violent, with little one could do save cower and pray. It incorporated real tornado footage, difficult to come by at the time. And because such film was grainy and underexposed, it was as frightening as hell, a dark vision of chaos. The film makes much use of children, pets and toys as being particularly at risk. (I understand the admonition not to open windows in advance of the storm was later added when the film was acquired by The Weather Channel; in dreams I would madly race across my house, throwing open windowpanes, while my dog barked and the twister grew ever closer.) Warnings were issued for entire counties – a deceptively large area – and the tornado could strike anywhere in that zone at any time. It jangled the nerves.
I thought I grew out of that by the time I was in high school, but when that tornado of 1977 materialized out of seeming nowhere, I remembered that old film and felt a genuine chill. I’m grateful for the advancements made in storm prediction, but to this day, I respect an angry wind.
UNK SEZ: Thanks for the exemplary traumafession Senski! Kids, make sure you keep up with our favorite pal over at his home base HEART IN A JAR!