In Oklahoma, the joke was that you could tell an Okie because he was the one standing outside during the thunderstorm…yes, I know about storm radio, and our town had a siren, but unless you wanted to spend half your time in the shelter, you watched the sky, especially when the clouds were dark, and you lived in an area 30 miles from the nearest radio station.

Yesterday’s SuperTuesday tornado outbreak hit my daughter’s town, and when we called last night, she didn’t even realize there had been any danger. Yup. Sounds like Robin, so deep into her art that she doesn’t hear the sirens.

On the other hand, these storms can come up so quickly that you can miss them, especially when they hit late at night, as did the storm yesterday. I remember one storm in Oklahoma where my neighbor and I spent five minutes trying to wake up and then convince my husband Lolo that he didn’t need to get dressed before going into the shelter in our neighbor’s back yard. Luckily, the tornado went a mile north of town and missed us, but it was a bit scary. But then Lolo is from the Philippines, and never saw a tornado in action.
A few idiots are going around spouting “global warming” as the cause of tornadoes in the winter, but actually they are not rare: over 1000 have been reported in the month of February between 1959 and 2004, mostly in South Eastern USA. Oklahoma’s tornado season starts in February/March, and in Minnesota we had tornadoes in the summer.
Wikipedia’s list goes back to the 1681 tornado in Massachusetts.

People don’t realize it, but there is a “mini tornado alley” in western Massachusetts, and because of the high population density, Massachusetts actually comes in number two on the list of deaths per square miles.

I was living in New England when the Winsor Locks tornado hit Conneticut’s Bradley field’s air museum and destroyed a lot of World War II vintage planes, but missed the main terminal. But I had flown out of that terminal many times, and wondered how many would have died if the tornado’s path had hit the other side of the airport.
So now I live in the Philippines, and am safe. Except we live in the flatlands here, and ironically, since moving here, we’ve seen two small “whirlwinds” destroy houses in nearby areas. Unlike other weather phenomenum, tornadoes can occur anywhere.

But the strangest tornado story is the tornado that save the United States.

In 1814, the British had chased the US out of Washington DC and occupied the city. But a strange storm awaited them…

From the book: the Waether Book:

Throughout the morning and early afternoon, the British soldiers continued to set fires and destroy ammunition supplies and defenses around the city. As the soldiers spread fire and destruction throughout the city, the early afternoon sky began to darken and lightning and thunder signaled the approach of a thunderstorm. As the storm neared the city, the winds began to increase dramatically and then built into a “frightening roar.” A severe thunderstorm was bearing down on Washington, and with it was a tornado…

The winds subsided quickly, but the rain fell in torrents for two hours. (There may have been a second thunderstorm that followed quickly after the first thunderstorm.) Fortunately, the heavy rain quenched most of the flames and prevented Washington from continuing to burn. After the storm, the British Army regrouped on Capitol Hill, still a bit shaken by the harsh weather. They decided to leave the city that evening. As the British troops were preparing to leave, a conversation was noted between the British Admiral and a Washington lady regarding the storm: The admiral exclaimed, “Great God, Madam! Is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?” The lady answered, “No, Sir, this is a special interposition of Providence to drive our enemies from our city.”

Washington was damaged, but the British left and never returned. The White House, although damaged, still stood and was soon restored to it’s former glory.
So the next time you see the White House, thank a tornado…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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