Moving to Memphis has meant getting used to living with tornado watches and warnings. This really didn't mean much to me until I lived through a few situations. I have made one very important observation. Every other type of severe weather is something you gradually become conditioned to. Your first exposure to a lot of snow is frightening, but you are better prepared for the next time. Your first hurricane warning is terrifying, but you learn to create a kit of materials and how and when to evacuate. Tornado activity is different. There is really nothing you can do to prepare, very little warning and survival seems very random. As a result, anxiety levels INCREASE with each exposure.
Looking at this graphic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, you can see that Memphis is smack in the middle of recorded tornado activity. Ya'll, it is SCARY here during tornado season! I have a weather radio at my college campus that was provided to us by the state of Tennessee. It beeps loudly whenever a weather warning is about to be announced. When that loud beep sounds, everyone stops what they are doing to come over and listen. Last year, a tornado took out the side of a local department store that is halfway between my college campus and my home.
I spent part of a recent Saturday hunkered down in a closet with a cat and a dog. All kinds of thoughts went through my head while I sat in that closet. I thought about the fact that I had no water in there. If we did get hit by a tornado and we managed to survive, but were trapped, we would be in bad shape. After the warning was lifted, I put some water in that closet. I look at it every time I go in there to select my clothes for the day. The more time that passes, the sillier I feel when I look at that water. But I haven't moved it yet!
Each place I have lived has required mental adjustments. I will never forget watching a dust devil, like a mini-tornado, cross the road in front of my car in Phoenix. My mouth hung open as I watched it travel. It was small, so I wasn't scared. Shortly after that, a dust cloud moved across the valley. By then I was safely home. I looked out the window during the worst part and I could not see the building that was just a few hundred feet away. There was a street light next to my building and it looked like rain was blowing in front of that light, but it was just dust.
Yesterday, a terrible storm descended while I was driving home from Nashville. I was about 45 minutes from my exit when the severe thunderstorm warnings began to play on the radio. I watched the sky get darker and darker. Then the rain just dropped out of the sky like a ton of bricks. Traffic on the interstate slowed to about 20 mph. Every car had its blinkers on. It was terrible. When I felt my steering wheel pull to the right, I knew I was getting a flat tire and I thought to myself, "Really? In the middle of this horrible storm, I'm getting a flat tire???" But I suppose I might have been lucky that it happened while we were driving so slowly. It could have happened while I was driving 70+ mph.
So, I limped off at the next exit and found a little Mom & Pop store. I had to spend the night at a creepy motel because the tire place wasn't open until the morning. And I am safely home now. But the anxiety of the whole situation was exhausting! I must tell you that everyone I met along the way was very nice! I kept thinking I was in a horror movie. My imagination is so vivid, that each person I met was a potential axe murderer. I think I was the only guest at the motel. I was too worried about serial killers to think about bedbugs, although I believe the latter was the greater danger. When the wind picked up later in the evening, I did have a moment to think that it would really be sad if a tornado dropped onto the motel while I happened to be there. Just for kicks and giggles, my cell phone was dead. Isn't that just a recipe for a classic horror movie???