We have some pretty good meteorologists in Michigan, but I have to tell you, Tom Skilling on WGN News in Chicago has been right on the money for the past few months. Whatever the weather is in Chicago on any day of the week, it’s almost a certainty that we’ll have that weather the next day – not always, but most of the time.
Recently, I watched Skilling as he interviewed a panel of weather experts from around the country. It was scary! A massive weather system, likely to produce damaging high winds and tornadoes, was moving across the country the day after the report, starting in the central plains. Although I checked the National Weather Service and it looked like we would have some not-so-threatening thunderstorms over the next few days, but I still took heed. You never know!
What was most impressive is that one of the gentlemen on this panel of experts talked about the incredible improvements in early warning systems over the years. He said their computers generate 73 trillion calculations per second … and those numbers are improving. (What comes after a trillion?) This is not the topic of today’s blog, but I have to tell you, this is another reason to support technology education in our schools. Lives are saved because of this.
When I was a kid living out in the country about 90 miles south of Chicago, my younger sister and I were playing on the swings in the backyard one day. Our backyard was fenced in and all around us were fields, and because it was mid-spring before planting took place, those fields were just dirt. Our mom was in the kitchen starting dinner. The sky did not look threatening whatsoever.
After a short time, I did notice what looked like a dust cloud way back in the field behind us, about a half a mile back. At first I thought it was dust, and then I thought it might be a fire. But then, I noticed it was moving! Just then, a stranger in an old pick-up truck pulled into our driveway, ran to where my sister and I were, grabbed us and shoved us into the house. He yelled at my mom that there was a tornado coming and that we all needed to get in the basement. We never saw this man before in our lives, but there he was in the basement with us and no one thought anything of it. But, that was back in the day.
Because we lived in the country, there were no tornado sirens, but this man was right. A few seconds later a tornado came roaring past. I’ll never forget it. A black cloud passed over our house to what sounded like a roaring train. It was over in seconds. The man left and a short time later Dad came home. He worked in nearby Kankakee and said the guys were standing on the roof watching the whole thing. Wow, he was brave, I thought. We learned later than this tornado leveled some houses to the ground and left others close by standing as though nothing had happened.
Tornadoes are terrifying! If you have ever actually seen one you would feel the same way. I cringe when a tornado watch or worse, a warning, has been issued and people just go about their business as though nothing is happening – even when the tornado siren is blaring. When I’m ready to fly into the basement for cover, I see others outside mowing their lawns and riding their bikes – even after the Fenton tornado of August 2007.
Pay attention to nature’s signs, too. When something looks “off” outside and things seem a bit too yellow or greenish, that’s a sign. When it gets very quiet all of a sudden – no birds chirping or insect noises, that’s a sign. In Fenton, we are fortunate to have five strategically placed tornado sirens, so when you do hear them, please do the smart thing and take shelter.