If you’ve followed my blog any length of time, you’re probably aware that I am not a fan of turbulent weather conditions that might result in some skank of a tornado interrupting my quest for a peaceful life. Actually, I suppose that’s not fair to say, because I tend to babble, a lot, and therefore it’s quite possible that I did not make my admittedly neurotic lilapsophobia (it’s a real condition, even if Microsoft Word is truculently acting like it’s not and indicating a spelling error) crystal clear. So, let’s go on record with this: If there’s a possibility of a tornado anywhere near me, I completely lose my mind.
This is something that did not bother me in my younger decades. I grew up in Oklahoma, part of what is known as “Tornado Alley”, which also covers Kansas and northern Texas. While I appreciate the camaraderie of including the states to the north and south of Oklahoma, the baseline fact is that Oklahoma “experiences the highest number of strong tornadoes per unit area.” (Go ahead and Google it. I’ll wait.) Still, even though we were at Ground Zero in my formative years, my fear was not out of control. Yes, if Mr. Weatherman on any of the three channels we received broke into regular programming and said “get your ass in a tornado shelter”, we got our asses there in an expedient manner, no hesitation. Nothing says “family bonding” like hunkering down in a concrete bunker whilst Dorothy and Toto whiz about above us.
For most of the evening up until this point, here in Dallas we’ve had the joy of experiencing another round of severe and potentially deadly weather. Needless to say, my anxiety meds were given a strength-test and I was not the most pleasant person to be around. (The cats have contacted their local union representative and filed a complaint about harsh working conditions.) The high point came when a tornado touched down in Grand Prairie. For those of you familiar with the area, Grand Prairie is just down the road a piece from South Dallas. If a tornado is on the ground there, you are wetting yourself over here.
So, since the adrenaline is still pumping despite things being “all clear” for the night, I thought it best to do some self-therapy and take a closer look at why I get so manic when the skies darken. Here we go…
ONE. The long-distance forecasting.
Back in the day, the weatherman was considered a genius if he could accurately predict what was going to happen in two days. Now, with all the fancy prediction software and the “computer models” they are always yammering about, they are able to warn of a potential Day of Windy Death three weeks from now. This gives me far too much time to dwell on the Something Wicked This Way Blows, and my anxiety ratchets incrementally with each click of the calendar days. I understand that advance warnings help save lives. Got it. But sometimes I wish we were back at that two-day, might-or-might-not happen model so I wouldn’t have time to fully channel Sylvia Plath.
TWO. The stupid numbers game.
Another recent invention is for the weather people to do some fancy figuring as each storm system approaches, configure potential zones of impact, and then christen said zones with a number from 1 to 5. (“1” means “you probably shouldn’t go to that outdoor concert”, and “5” means “you were thinking about buying a new house anyway, right?”.) I am not a fan of this concept. I don’t want to know that I have platinum status in the flight path of potential destruction. This just makes me more crazy. Why don’t we just have one zone and say “everybody in this chunk of real estate needs to pay attention” and call it good? Why make my sphincter tighten even further, especially when I can go to bed the night before Panic Day as a Level 1 and wake up to find that I’m now Level 3 and the winds have already started to increase? Geez.
THREE. The sirens.
If you’ve ever been in a situation where the tornado sirens wail unceasingly for an hour or more, you know exactly what I mean when I say it does something to your soul, even if you don’t have anxiety issues. And if you do? You are vibrating so intensely that you are levitating in a manner that makes Linda Blair look like an amateur. (“Demi, why you do dis to me?”)
FOUR. They don’t have basements in Texas.
What the hell is wrong with these people? Tornadoes drop from the sky on a regular basis, which means that a basement is a really fine thing to have. Basements help you live to see another day where you can watch the Dallas Cowboys play or proudly open-carry your firearm of choice. Yeah, I’ve heard all that mess about the ground being really hard and it’s not cost effective and blah yadda blah. Here’s the deal: we have put a man on the moon. Surely you can figure out how to build a basement in Texas instead of spending all your time trying to defund Planned Parenthood.
FIVE. Even though I don’t want to hear it, I want to hear it.
We have satellite TV. (We’ve tried the cable and internet TV routes, but in the end, those methods would fritz out more often than the satellite, so an ugly dish on the house it is.) If storms are swirling, my ass is glued to the TV, carefully analyzing every word uttered by weathermen as they interrupt “Two Broke Girls” and announce the lottery winners of who should be running to jump in the bathtub and pull a mattress over them. Of course, when the weather is truly jacked, with the wind and intense rain redefining the local topography, that satellite signal can sometimes go AWOL.
I plunge into darkness when this happens, literally and figuratively. I would probably be better off emotionally if I didn’t subject myself to the constant stream of potentially-alarming updates, but I’m OCD with this. I have to know. I’m the addict who wanders down the street where the crack houses are even though I know I shouldn’t and nobody looks pretty when their obsessions take control. If you cut off my supply, I twerk in an unimpressive manner.
Case in point, and I’ve written about this before, so excuse the retread: A few years ago, during yet another frenzied night when we had endured endless warnings and sirens and reports that entire neighborhoods were now open for redevelopment, the satellite signal went out. I stayed right there on the couch in front of the TV, unable to move, just staring at the mostly-black screen with a simple pop-up from DirecTV advising that coitus interruptus was now in session, please standby. After about 30 minutes, the signal buzzed to life, with a weatherman warning that “the center of the tornado is right over the intersection of Kiest Boulevard and Westmoreland Road.” Then the signal died again, back to black.
That intersection is five blocks from my house. I peed a little bit. Twenty minutes later, the rain stopped and the wind decided it had other places to be. I eventually crawled into bed, making all the promises one makes when the bullet has been dodged.
We woke up the next morning to learn that a tornado had indeed passed over without ever touching the ground. Still, there was enough turbulence that several homes in our neighborhood had sustained damage. Every house on our block had entire trees or at least major limbs lying in their yards. Except ours. We had one comparatively-minor branch plunked precisely in the center of our front lawn, despite the fact that we actually have the tallest trees on the block. I almost felt a little embarrassed when we dragged the plunking to the curb, whilst all of our neighbors were dragging much more.
I’m not a fan of storms, let it be known far and wide. I embrace a good rain, and even the gentle rumblings of ineffectual thunder. Just don’t let the wind swirl.