Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Mom! Mom! It's a Tornado!"

When the tornado sirens first blew last evening, I didn't think the clouds looked that bad. Then we heard there was a tornado on the ground six miles southwest of Creston. I was looking out the window overlooking the pond when I saw a likely looking cloud. In the time it took me to go out on the deck to take pictures, the funnel was already formed and dropping.
This first picture was taken zoomed in.

This was taken on normal setting a couple seconds later so you can see the tornado in relation to our pond.

My dad was a dedicated cloud watcher. By watching threatening weather with him, I learned at a very young age what to look for in the clouds. And I've been a cloud watcher myself ever since. Of course now we have Doppler and super Doppler to warn of potential bad weather. There's nothing like storm spotting with one's own eyes, however.

I believe this type of tornado is called a "rope" because of the way it twists and turns and "ropes out".
I have seen a lot of tornadoes in the distance and viewed a lot of tornado damage, but the closest I've ever been to one was June 7, 1984. Kari, Preston and I were at my Mom's farm. I was fixing supper. There were storm warnings out and Preston was in the front yard watching the clouds. Yes, I had passed my Dad's and my fascination on to him.
Suddenly he came running into the house: "Mom! Mom! It's a tornado and it's headed this way!" "Sure it is, I said." "No, really, he yelled, come look!" By the time I got out into the yard there was a cloud of debris racing northeast across the neighbor's pasture about a half mile away. I could see we were out of the path of the twister - unless it turned, of course. I sent Mom and the kids to the storm cellar while I got on the phone to call the sheriff to warn the town of Corning. I was told they were already aware. My cousin, Gary Mitchell, had already called it in.

In this photo, you can just make out some of the dust being churned up by last night's tornado. I don't think this one damaged any buildings. That was not the case in the 1984 tornado. A home a mile and half west of Mom's was completely destroyed. Luckily the mother and child home at the time made it into the basement just before the tornado struck.
A neighbor a mile east and two and a half miles north lost his barn. Interestingly enough, the barn built to replace it was damaged in another tornado three years ago.
To me, this rope tornado looked a lot less dangerous than some I've seen. The size can be deceiving, however, as some tornadoes get more intense as they narrow and tighten. (Size does not necessarily indicate strength. I'll remember that the next time I'm photographing a rope tornado - or indeed, any tornado.)

I only had time to take nine photos including this last one of the funnel back up in the clouds. It is the slightly darker line right at the bottom of the cloud in the middle of the picture.
Is the fact that we had our first severe weather on the second day of spring a presage of things to come? Will it not only be a dark and stormy night but a dark and stormy season as well? Will Preston again be saying, "Mom! Mom! It's a tornado!",?
Will Dorothy be calling, "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!"?


  1. Of course, I remember it differently: "Mom, how do you know when a tornado is close?" "Well, the air gets real still and there aren't any sounds." "Oh." I proceed to look at the west door, "Mom! There is a tornado across the road." and then your story takes over, except I remember that it is only me and Kari in the cellar--you and G'Ma were watching the tornado as it headed to town.

  2. It is always interesting how differently two or more people remember the same happening.
    I would say you already knew about the 'quiet before the storm' by that time in your life, but maybe not.