Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Tornadette

As natural disasters go, this one was on the puny side, but it got bonus points for zest and caprice. I mean, no matter where you live, you carry with you a notion of what's liable to get you, and what isn't. You develop a steely, studied nonchalance toward the likely events and the rest aren't even on your radar.

Even when it's a tornado, which is something that is totally supposed to be on radar.

So here in our little neighborhood, we don't give any thought to wildfire, or flood, or hurricane, or tsunami, or avalanche, or tornado. We're urban, and on high ground. And yet in the space of a few months we've had a flood, when a major water main blew up and emitted 30,000 gallons of water per minute into the streets for hours, and a tornado, caused by God only knows what, although localized outbreaks of sodomy are as good an explanation as any.

Homeowners were on the hook for related damages both times. Nobody carries flood insurance or tornado insurance. We still recall the homeowner who couldn't collect when his neighbor's entire house slid down a hill and crashed into his, because his insurance policy didn't cover house-to-house collisions.

The insurance industry is in the business of making shareholders whole.

The dog's name is Paisley.
What we are instructed to worry about here, in the way of natural disasters, would be your massive cataclysmic earthquake, or your volcanic ash-fall. That's about it. So when our tornado touched down, residents shaking in its path were probably thinking: Wow, I knew it would be loud, but I didn't expect it to be this wet.

We were four blocks away and it was just one of those sudden deals wherein the sky looks bent for a minute and then God's own bucket of hail comes down. Nothing unprecedented about that, just another meteorological event in the "doozy" category. We did get one ton of rain and hail for about ten minutes. It was compelling. Dave came bolting through the front door from his walk, looking like a drowned rat, followed by a raft of actual drowned rats for comparison, from the dumpster of the Mexican place on the corner. It was something. Salmon runs convened offshore and considered a comeback. Cactus fields a thousand miles south shuddered into bloom.

But four blocks away trees were coming down, and people peered out their windows to see lawn furniture and branches and surplus poultry and an old bat on a bicycle flying by. It's just not the kind of thing anyone expects.

And that is because weather apps are not all they're cracked up to be. I particularly enjoy Accuweather because of its audacity. "Rain starting in 119 minutes," it will smoothly report, which is just the kind of specificity that can fill a person with confidence that everything is well under control, but nowhere in the Monday report did it mention anything about a petite tornado touching down at 5:24pm. And the nearest trailer park is four miles away.

It was only an 80-mph tornado, just strong enough to make eyes roll in Kansas. But it's not supposed to happen at all. What's next?

God, I hope it's frogs.

23 comments:

  1. It is good that you had no damage.

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  2. We never used to have tornados in our area either. "Used to" being the operative words. Fortunately, they are rare, but we do get watches and warnings from time to time.

    We also used to have our annual summer drought. No more. May seems to be "rainy season" now, and we are prone to flash floods. Torrential rain occurs at intervals throughout the summer.

    I digress, but I have also seen the odd western bird in our yard. A Western Kingbird hung around the neighborhood for a while, and I heard him for weeks before I saw him. I wondered what that strange, shrill bird sound was. Finally, he appeared on my deck, looked at me as if to say, "Okay, I'm here. Take a good look." I never saw him again after that. Also saw a Townsend's Solitaire around my birdbath. I checked both these birds against Peterson's book and the internet. They were the only images that matched what I saw. We're also getting red-breasted nuthatches, which although are technically indigenous to our area, I have never seen before last year. We usually only got the white-breasted variety.

    Most telling to me, however are the vultures. We used to get only turkey vultures. Two winters ago, I started seeing black vultures as well (a southern bird). Now I see no more turkey vultures, only black ones. Where have the turkey vultures gone?

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    1. I grew up in and still live in Southern NJ. We did see turkey vultures when I was a kid, but it was not an everyday affair and we didn't know where they roosted. They are now one of the commoner/more numerous birds in the state and if you haven't seen one in five minutes, something is wrong. I know several places I can drive to that aren't all that far away and see them roosting.

      Black vultures showed up in the 1990s. They tend to travel in flocks, so if you see one, you've seen five or ten of them. They are nowhere near as common as turkey vultures and seeing one is still a matter of pulling out the book and making a note of it. But your chances of seeing one at some point during the month are pretty good and go up depending on where you are in the state.

      When I was a kid, farmers were still shooting anything that wasn't a robin and townships were spraying DDT every night during the summer. Apex feeders, like birds of prey and vultures ended up with the highest load of DDT and so had reproductive issues.

      That ended and folks stopped hunting like they used to. The deer population exploded and given all the roads and people driving at nine zillion miles an hour, dead deer on the sides of the roads became a useful way of figuring out how many miles you'd driven. In my brother's neighborhood, there was a dead deer every twenty feet as a for instance.

      All that carrion and the outlawing of DDT helped the vulture population along. I'm not sure whether the black vultures got wind of the bounty down south and moved north or if they were helped along by milder weather. Anyway, they are here now.

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    2. DEAD DEER EVERY TWENTY FEET? D'oe!

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  3. I know we get eruptions of things. Three years ago we were slathered in red-breasted nuthatches. I still hear them but they're staying the heck out of our yard, after the nesting fiasco. If anything unusual blew in from the tornado, it'd be right dizzy.

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  4. I hope it's frogs, too - what a whale of a post you'd be able to write about that! Ooops, shouldn't have mentioned whales in a wishing sentence - if they show up you're in big, big trouble.

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    1. Always a possibility if they start blowing up the carcasses like they used to.

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  5. I hope it is frogs too. And smiled at jenny_o's comment. I hope to go whale watching sometime soon(ish). Preferably not in my selfish self's garden though.

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    1. It's not selfish at all. You only want what's good for the whales.

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  6. I'm waiting on the official designation of our part of Kentucky as 'rainforest'. We've had only a very few days without rain since...well, since I don't know when. And guess what? RAIN, for DAYS in the immediate forecast. That concrete and steel beam pseudo-Ark that local yokels take their poor, indoctrinated kids to had better be floatable.

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    1. Didn't I read that the owners of that ark have sued because of rain damage?

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  7. I think today's murderous-cold wind in my corner is just a little warm-up for the cyclone season...

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  8. I'm in a part of my country that doesn't get tornadoes or cyclones, thank goodness, the gale force winds that rip off roofs and tear off tree branches a couple of times a year are bad enough.

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    1. That's kind of a thin distinction, I think.

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    2. I think the main difference is the spin with the eye of calm in the centre. We don't get that, just a huge wind that tears on through on its way to anywhere else.

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  9. Sometime in the late 70's a tornado took the roof off a school across the river in Vancouver. I think we're going to be seeing tornados where they have been absent due to climate change.

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    1. We'll probably see a bit of everything. I will say (I have said) that I grew up in thunderstorm country and the two fiercest thunderstorms I've ever seen were right here. Even though we can go all year without even one.

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  10. Quit with the localized outbreaks of sodomy or you'll get sharknados next.

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    1. Okay. But send a frognado and I'm right back on the sodomy again.

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