It’s Spring, Tornado Season in the Ozarks

Photo courtesy of NSSL

April 14, 2012

We’re finally back to a relatively normal April around here, complete with thunderstorms and tornado watches. The Storm Prediction Center, part of the National Weather Service, issued a high-risk warning of possible tornado outbreaks on Friday for parts of the middle United States from Minnesota down to southern Texas today – especially from Salina, Kansas to Oklahoma City this afternoon.

A tornado hit Norman, Oklahoma yesterday afternoon, with nineteen people injured. Here in Springfield, we’ve had thunderstorms rolling in and out since the wee hours of Friday morning and it’s raining as I write this. We needed the rain.

I peered out the window a while ago – those vibrant shades of green against a luminous gray sky, the trees slow dancing in a light wind, all promise good gardening ahead though it certainly put an end to my son’s plans to come over and finish putting in the fence posts today.

Every time the thunder rolls in, the cat dashes under the skirted table by the couch. And though I am not so skittish, I keep my tornado bag handy and check the weather news occasionally as afternoon approaches. Even the tomato and pepper starts in the plant room lean toward the window as if keeping an eye on the sky outside.

We take our tornadoes seriously around here, from the great tornado outbreak on April 18, 1880 – eight to ten tornadoes that crossed ten counties before the night was over, killed 152 people and nearly wiped out the town of Marshfield (92 dead) – to the EF5 tornado that destroyed such a large part of Joplin on May 22, last year, killing 161 people.

Having grown up in Tornado Alley, I’ve always been fascinated by what we know – and don’t know – about how tornadoes are spawned from thunderstorms. If you’re interested, NOAA has a good site that explains both.

I also keep a “tornado bag,” which a person could adapt for whatever weather emergencies they might have in their area.

At a minimum, your disaster supply kit should include:
• A 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won’t spoil.
• One change of clothing and footwear per person.
• Blanket or sleeping bag per person.
• A first-aid kit, including prescription medicines.
• Emergency whistle and other tools (such as manual can opener and plastic dishes and silverware if you’re planning on canned food), a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
• An extra set of car keys and a credit card or cash.
• Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.

As climate change progresses, local and regional weather patterns will change in ways we don’t fully understand. This past weird March is just one example. We’ll need to be more alert to what’s going on around us and be prepared to face extreme weather patterns and stronger, possibly stranger, severe weather events. The time to prepare yourself and your family is before severe weather happens. I know I sound like a cross between your local weather person and your mother, but seriously, if you haven’t prepared yet, now would be a good time to look around at what types of events happen in your neck of the woods, decide where you and your family would go and get together a kit and a plan in place to deal with them.

While I was finishing up this blog post, the clouds blew away, the sun came out and it’s a lovely day here in Springfield. Whether that will change again by this evening and the storms from Kansas and Oklahoma blow in, I don’t know. I guess that’s just part of the fun of spring and tornado season in the Ozarks.

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8 Responses to It’s Spring, Tornado Season in the Ozarks

  1. pamela says:

    hey Linda, hope those old storms go away and leave you, and everyone, alone!
    I like your list too. no home should be without an emergency pack like that.

    • theozarker says:

      Well, still sunny and warm so far. (Crosses fingers) I agree about the emergency kit. And we need to remind ourselves every once in a while to make sure it’s still ready to go.

  2. graveday says:

    What, no gun in the kit? Just kidding. I hope you stay tornado free, or at least they have bad aim if they do come around. And what about the cat if you do have to grab your bag and zag?

    • theozarker says:

      Thanks grave, I always hope for bad aim, too. I have a cat carrier and have 3 days worth of cat food in the bag, but she does have a mind of her own and I’m afraid I’m not going to go hunting for her if a tornado does come through and I can’t find her. B’bye, kitty. Sigh.

  3. paul says:

    How about a wind-up radio and torch, or combination radio/torch?

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Paul, I used to have a wind-up radio that had an emergency flashing light and a flashlight beam. Would like to find another one, as I really used the heck out of it when we had that ice storm back in 2007 and the electric was out for 12 days. It finally gave up the ghost about 2 years ago, but I really liked it.

  4. graveday says:

    On that note, I just asked Kathleen what folks do about their horses and other large animals. Haven’t heard back, but it may be similar to your response. One thing she did point out is what we all know, that anything related to weather like hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and fires, and floods, seem to be more severe. Even earthquakes are popping up more due to fracking.
    That said, a guy who grows flowers and fruits for sale says his flowers are about ten days behind their usual cycle, but then spring has been a tad cold and wet so far, but warming now.
    Some tomato plants I put out at the beginning of the month are frostbit and sulking now.

    • theozarker says:

      I did notice that when the cat lived downstairs with my son, she would go to the kitchen cabinet next to the sink and hide in there. Someone told me that plumbing anchors that part of the house if the tornado isn’t tooooo strong. Maybe animals have good instincts? I don’t know.
      And I agree we’re really screwing with the weather patterns. I’ve had my early crops in since mid March. They usually don’t go in until first to fifteenth of April up here on the plateau. Kind of eerie.

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