Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Force of Nature

We throw around that phrase around a lot, but yesterday we were shown what a real Force of Nature is.  The tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, is the stuff of nightmares, and I should know.  “Tornado” is the Returning Champion of my night-time terrors.  I've probably had the Can’t-Get-Away-From-the-Tornado dream every year or so since I was a kid. 
A scene from my nightmares, which in this case happens to be from the F5 tornado that hit Moore in 1999. (source)

I heard about this one while at work, but it seemed like just another twister.  They've been popping up like crazy this month.  But later when I got home and flipped on the TV, I quickly saw that this one was anything but ordinary.  Holy shit!

It wasn't that the footage of this tornado was scarier than any other.  I couldn't get over the vastness of the destruction.  I've never seen a tornado that left such a wide “footprint.”  I mean, 5 blocks wide and 17 miles long??  There’s just nothing left.
Everything… just… gone. (source)

Pictures you see online and on TV look like shots from Syria, or Libya, or Afghanistan.  Our “Shock and Awe” campaigns of the Iraq and Afghan Wars didn't do this kind of damage.

This thing spent 40 minutes on the ground.  I can’t imagine the horror felt by the people that encountered it.  Most tornadoes do a lot of hopping around and spend a total of about 10 minutes on the ground.  This one was 40 minutes of uninterrupted devastation.

I sat looking around my apartment, wondering, “What would happen if all this was just [poof] gone?”  One minute you have food and plates and furniture and electronics and you’re wondering about your team’s chances in the playoffs, and the next minute you’re trying not to get sucked out of your bathtub and into an airborne buzz-saw   Then you crawl out of what’s left of your house and you have nothing.  No clothes, no car, no mementos, no documents… your life has contracted to the clothes on your back.  If you’re lucky, you were wearing shoes.

What’s worse, there is little infrastructure left to get you back on your feet.  The Home Depot is gone too, as is the grocery store, gas station and pizza shop.  You, my metaphorical friend, are all kinds of “fucked.”

And what do you do with your feelings?  There’s no one to blame for your misery, and there’s nothing Americans like to do more than blame others for their own misfortune.  But this time there are no terrorists, no warring country, no “socialist” government or giant corporation … there’s nowhere to direct your anger.  It’s Nature’s way; shit just happens.  Turns out, the bumper sticker is right. 

It’s tough for us to accept mankind’s limitations.  As a people, we’re so used to getting what we want, it’s hard to stomach not being able to avoid this kind of destruction.

A tornado is ruthless, pitiless, remorseless, unforgiving and resolute; moving ever onward for as long as it cares to, regardless of what you do, like it’s Nature’s own personal Terminator. 

George Carlin once made the point in one of his HBO specials, about the inherent arrogance of our thinking we have to save the planet.  He said, “The planet is fine… it’s not going anywhere… WE ARE!”

It’s like every so often, the earth needs to remind us who’s really in charge.  Suffice to say, it’s not us. 

While tornadoes scare the hell out of me, I still find them fascinating to look at.  I tell you, when they made the movie “Twister,” it was with dudes like me in mind.  I mean, I hate the things, but I can’t look away either.  My stomach does flips but I keep watching anyway.

I couldn't watch too much of this tornado coverage though.  Schools, hospitals, shopping centers, rows and rows of homes, all obliterated.  I just couldn't deal.  To cheer up, I put in the new DVD for Season 7 of “Dexter,” instead.

It’s sad when a show about a fictional serial killer represents a step up from the real world.

Fundraising drives to aid the people of Moore have already been started.  I recommend that we find one we trust and make a donation. 

One of them ought to be called, “Fund for the Fucked.”  I smell a telethon…  Conan O’Brien can host.


Just Keepin It Real, Folks! said...

I had to stop watching the news coverage because it was too heart breaking. You are right about finding an organization we trust to make a donation. I never trust the Red Cross because they take so much off the top, however, I'll find one I like and contribute.

Cassie said...

I was *in* one tornado and I have seen several others from afar. Being from Minnesota, one would assume the one I was in would be there, but no. It was in Western PA. In 1993? Or 1992? It was the first and last timeI ever went to Conneaut Lake Park.

I remember being on the carousel and everyone began to run. Just flat out sprint. I was there with a few friends and their parents. I went back to the bench to get my spring coat. It was yellow with little squares on it. My mom would have been so upset if I left that coat.

As I grabbed the coat, my friend's dad picked me up like I was a football and ran all the way back to the van where he proceeded to just drive away. Not even waiting for us to click into our seats. Just drove away.

I saw it. It was bigger than in my nightmares. Was probably only an EF-1, but that was enough for me. We parked behind a brick building, probably a bank, and waited it out. I was terrified. And this was before cell phones, so my mom was terrified, because she had no idea where we were and if we were OK until we got home.

An EF-5? I can't even fathom that. I just can't.

Unapologetically Mundane said...

I love talking to NYCers about tornadoes, because they just don't have any frame of reference for them. There was a tornado in Brooklyn a few years back, and I remember people being like, 'THIS IS THE CRAZIEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED." And I was like, " . . . this was every summer in Ohio." Waiting in my creepy unfinished basement was way worse than any tornado. This tornado actually was the craziest thing, though.

bluzdude said...

Yeah, there seems to be quite a few organizations raising funds right now. I wouldn’t donate anywhere without checking them out. Personally, my company has a national presence, so they usually collect employee donations. I’ll probably go through them (and hope they don’t just hand it to the Red Cross).

bluzdude said...

Holy crap, Cass! You poor little thing, in your yellow-square coat… You totally need to post this story. (Wait, you were born before cell phones?)

Your story sounds a lot like my nightmares, except in my dream, I can’t run… I keep falling down. What I wouldn’t give to have someone show up and carry me off like a football.

I’ve never seen a real tornado, but we had the tornado-warning experience once or twice. Once when we lived in Columbus in the mid-70s, there were tornado warnings going out. Mom was at school and Dad was home, so it must have been a weekend. It was a real windy/stormy day and I was looking out the window. Then I said, “Hey Dad, the wind stopped.”

He said, “Everyone get in the basement, NOW!”

We hauled ass down there and hung out for a couple hours playing Ping-Pong and hoping our house didn’t get torn apart.

Nothing happened in Columbus, but Xenia, Ohio (which was an hour or two to the south) took major tornado damage.

Also, a few years after we moved from Toledo, a tornado hit our high school (which was a mile or so from our house) and flattened one of the buildings. We would have been able to hear it, if not see it, from home.

bluzdude said...

Yes! We have our sturdy Midwestern Tornado Cred!

It’s kind of like that here in Maryland as well; we very rarely have tornadoes. I can only remember one having touched down; it was right near the University of Maryland. Killed two students. The Moore tornado makes that look like a day at the beach.

It’s a myth, though, that tornadoes don’t strike urban areas. It’s a myth because they can and do; it just doesn’t happen as often because there is so much more non-urban land in the country.

A Beer for the Shower said...

You say we can't blame people for this tornado, and yet nutjobs like Alex Jones think it was a conspiracy by the government or some such nonsense.


Anonymous said...

They say that it hit what might be the most densely populated square miles of Oklahoma... for the third time in a decade. Dumb effing luck, eh?

Orrrrr... is it God's retribution for the 2 OK Senators who voted against Sandy Relief? Just kidding. Somewhere, Pat Robertson's beeper is going off.

Valerie said...

I agree... While I find tornadoes fascinating, they scare the shit out of me!! I would still totally chase them.

My heart is broken for those poor people tho.



bluzdude said...

OK, let me amend my statement. Ahem…

No one with at least the intelligence than a small soap dish could possibly blame people for this tornado.

It’s a wonder ass-clowns like this guy can figure out which end of the microphone to talk into.

bluzdude said...

I tried really hard not to bring any religion or politics into that post, even though I was itching to. The way those parasites in the south held up aid for the victims of Sandy was obscene. I was wondering how they were going to finesse their way through this one, now that they need the very same aid (again). Company line seems to be that the Sandy aid was riddled with profiteers and side projects, something that couldn’t possibly happen in Oklahoma. (Gag…)

It also cracked me up that Wolf Blizter seemed to find the only atheist in Oklahoma to ask about whether she was thanking the Lord for sparing her. Good for her, for calling out his assumption, albeit very politely. But I bet she’s getting death threats already.

bluzdude said...

While I wouldn't mind seeing one (briefly, from a distance), I certainly couldn't see chasing one. I'll be the one high-steppin' it in the other direction.