So one of the first things people think about when I tell them I'm from Kansas is the Wizard of Oz. Normally I get at least one silly person who will call me Dorathy and a handful more who will ask me how Toto is doing. If they are particularly annoying, I'll tell them Toto is dead.
But that isn't what makes you a true Kansan. Growing up here you learn to deal with the constant wind, the rain storms that appear out of no where on a sunny day, and the tornado sirens that are common during the summer months.
For those of you that don't know what a tornado siren sounds like this is the easiest way for me to describe it. Have you ever heard an Air Raid siren from the 1930's-40's? Either in real life or in the movies? That is what a tornado siren sounds like as many of them are left over from back then. Though I'm not sure if they would spin back then. Our spin so that they can send the sound over a wider area than one that only points one direction. So the sound tends to wax and wane.
I grew up across the street from one of these sirens. I don't ever remember being scared of it. All it meant to me was that there was a bad storm and Mom and Dad would shuffle myself and my sisters down into the crawl space under the house. We didn't have a basement. Just a crawl space where all the plumping was. The space ran the entire length of the house but was only about 3 feet tall. We'd spread out a blanket on the dirt floor and lay down with the radio and a flashlight. And while we sat in the dirt, my Mom would be running between checking on us and checking on Dad who normally had pulled out the video camera and was outside somewhere trying to get the whole thing on tape.
The only time I actually remember associating fear with the siren was with my youngest sister. Here the tornado sirens are tested every Monday at noon no matter the season. They go off for about 2-3 minutes at noon then shut off for the week. Well one summer when Dani was only maybe 5 or 6 the three of us were out back playing. Well noon rolls around and the siren goes off. Sam and myself know that the siren is just a test but we run for the house anyways. We make it in before Dani and manage to lock her outside. The poor thing was pounding on the door and turning the nob trying to get in while we just laughed. My dad looked at us and asked if we'd locked her out. Of course we said no and that the door must just be stuck. So he told us to let her in. I discreetly unlocked the door and opened it. Well by this time she had stopped pounding on it and had managed to press her back against the door in fear so as the door opens she falls backwards into the house. Sam and I laughed so hard. We still remember it to this day, and it still makes me laugh.
I have seen my share of tornadoes though. I've seen 5 at the same time while driving out in the country. I've seen one a quarter mile wide go past my town just 2 miles out while standing out in the front yard watching it. That day my Dad was 2 blocks down the street filming it. All the traffic on the road was heading towards it rather than away. And it was just another normal day that happened to have a bit of excitement. I've also driven through towns that have been practically wiped off the map after a tornado has hit them.
My first reaction anymore when I hear I'm in a tornado warning is to turn to the news, or more likely, bring up the news station website to see exactly where the storm is. If it doesn't look like its heading directly for me I don't bother moving to shelter. No point other wise.
Last night was just such a time. It had been storming pretty good out, lots of thunder and rain. No big deal. In fact I never would have known that there was a tornado warning at all had the National Weather service not sent a banner across the TV show we were watching. So I open up the news site and look at the radar. Pretty big storm line, worst part sitting right on top of the town. So I open up the live news cast to hear what they have to say and find out that the rotation in the storm is all East of me already. Good to know, that means I don't need to move to the shelter.
In my younger days I would have gone to the door and probably braved the rain to go out and see if I could see anything. Not anymore. Now I just find out if I need to actually stop what I'm doing or not. If not, I just keep doing what I'm doing.
I've come to the conclusion that there are 2 types of Kansans. Those that run out the door to see the tornado, and those like me who've seen enough and just keeping what they are doing.
The only thing that really disappointed me about the storm was the fact that the rotation was right over the part of town where I work and it didn't have the courtesy to take out the building I work in.