Thursday, April 10, 2008

Things I don't understand #37...

...How we still haven't come up with a better way to find a tornado.

If you live anywhere around me (i.e. north Texas) you were probably awakened somewhere between 3:30 am and 4:30 am this morning by the sense that all was not well. Whether it was the rain against the windows, the howling wind, or actual warning sirens; sleep was interrupted last night. My first thought when I woke up was, "Dangit! Why am I awake?" My second was, "Oh it just rain hitting the window." The third was, "Wait a second, rain hardly ever hits my window directly, much less the entire expanse from top to bottom." At this point I actually made an attempt to fight through the grogginess. Got up and, of course as any highly intelligent person would do, went straight up to the window. What I saw was a raging storm. The rate at which the rain pounded my window made it feel like I was sitting behind the windshield of a big bus trying to drive through a hurricane. But I was standing still so that meant the rain was making excellent time. I stood there for a couple of minutes blinking at the night sky until I finally realized that despite my 20/15 vision and superior skills of observation, the chances of me actually predicting what might come next and the severity of such an event might be limited to the 30 feet surrounding the light pole nearest me. I flipped on the TV.

My friend Pete Delkus was already on the case (BTW, don't get me wrong, I love Pete. But I still miss Troy Dungan and his cute little bow tie sometimes). He informed me that, indeed, I was residing right in the middle of a tornado warning. That sounded serious. I then got my first look at the radar and just about messed my britches. There were several little circulating things and he kept saying "rotation" and mentioning points of interest very near where I stood. I pondered if I needed to retire to the tub and take my mattress along as a security blanket. Soon after, the warning was canceled and I relaxed.

I watched the news a little more as they moved into the "let's talk about what's happened phase" (I guess all those towns east of here would just have to figure it out on their own). After one rather inane phone interview with a guy in Las Colinas who witnessed a roof getting torn off a house, they spoke with some official in Ft. Worth. The storm had moved through there over an hour earlier and they were questioning whether some damage had been caused by plain old wind or a tornado. That's when I realized that the only way we know for sure if there was a tornado is if someone actually sees it. Despite all these stations with all their million dollar radars, we're still have yet to improve on the method of weather prediction shockingly similar to me standing dreary-eyed and looking out the window. After all this talk of supercells and wall clouds and hook echos and mesocyclones, the only thing we can really count on is Bubba in his pick-up eye-balling a twister. Pete did mention that storm watchers were being asked to report for duty, whatever that entails. But did any one notice it was 4 am? And thus dark? How exactly is Bubba supposed to see it in the dark? As defenses against an F5 go, that really doesn't seem to be all that impenetrable.

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