Many of my small circle of net.friends have been upset this week. They weren't quite sure precisely where this place Dustbury is supposed to be, but they were aware, thanks to their local 24-hour news channels, that central Oklahoma was pounded (and then some) by some of the biggest tornadoes on record this past Monday night, and they thought it prudent to assume the worst — especially since this site hadn't been updated in a few days.

Actually, the worst managed to stay to my south and west, though not very far. At its peak, the funnel was nearly a mile wide, and its easternmost flank ventured to within half a mile of this desk. At least, that's what they said in the newspapers; what I saw looked more like a matte painting from a science-fiction film, and an ill-lit one at that. The electrical power went dead here almost immediately, and was not restored until the next day. The only actual damage to my premises, though, was some ostensible surface excitement added to the top of my car, courtesy of a barrage of high-speed ice balls. Given the sheer strength of this storm — bigger vehicles than this were picked up and dropped across the street or in front of houses or even into houses — I'm not inclined to complain a great deal about a handful of dimples.

From the purely meteorological standpoint, it's all over. Orange and red clay swept up into the air in the wake of the storms, making a giant Dreamsicle of the sky, but it's moved out of here by now. Some of the rivers, already swollen by earlier spring rains, sloshed out of their banks; they have since receded. While rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast for the next few days, this is nothing unusual: May, after all, is the wettest month in central Oklahoma — less than 8½ percent of the year, but around 15 percent of the annual precipitation. For something like an F5-level tornado to strike here, it almost has to be May.

Aside from Weather Channel junkies, though, no one really believes it's over. You can't watch destruction at this level, even at a "safe" distance, without something happening to you. The deeply religious, and we have lots of them, saw this as a severe test of their faith; the vast majority of them, I believe, held on. For those of an environmentalist bent — and perhaps also for those who scoff at such things — the storm was a none-too-gentle reminder that Nature always gets the last word.

And it was a wake-up call for me as well. All my life I've always felt that I could laugh in the face of danger. This is the first time I can remember that it laughed back.

The Vent

#148
9 May 1999

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