Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tornado in Hutchinson Kansas

I am now officially tried of blog posts that include the word "tornado" in the title. But, today was our turn. We had a tornado touch down today in Hutchinson, Kansas, where I live.You know it's not good news when the weather channel has a note up about "Reno County Kansas" and it's where you live.

Let me start by saying that I am fine - and everyone I know is fine - and our houses are all fine. The tornado touched down at Centennial and Fourth Street, which is on the extreme western side of town.

We've had weather coverage on most of the day because there have been tons of storms all around the area. This afternoon we were watching the TV when the sirens started going off. Now, sirens generally mean you should take cover. But we were watching TV and they were telling us that the tornado was to the west of Hutchinson.

I looked over and realized how absurd the scene was - Mark was enjoying a cup of tea and we were chatting normally, while the tornado sirens went off in the background. Let me say, for the record, that I do take these things seriously, but as we all know, forecasters are a bit overzealous on a regular basis.

I now call it the Katrina Effect - if you tell people repeatedly that this is going to be the "storm of the century" but the last 87 times they left their homes nothing happened except they had everything stolen, they start to ignore you.

It's why the weather service has now come up with a "Tornado Emergency" designation, which is what they issued the other night when the Greensburg tornado happened. Today was a prime example - the sirens were going off although there was not a tornado. People become desensitized. I'm not even a Kansan and I've become desensitized in the years I've lived here. All of my neighbors were out on their porches, just like we were.

This is what Kansans do until they have some inkling that it's serious...

I keep bottled water and a few basic supplies in the basement, as well as some tennis shoes, and a radio/flashlight you can crank for power, but that's about it. However, when there is a threat of bad weather, I make a pile by the basement door to take downstairs with me if it becomes necessary - my purse with phone and car keys, the laptop and external hard drive.

Of course there are other things that are precious to me, but you can't haul your whole life to the basement. I've lived in Kansas for 22 years and I've gone to the basement less than a half dozen times. Statistically, there's a far greater chance to being hurt driving a car than in a tornado. Of course, situations like Greensburg are horrific, and they do happen, but they are rare.

Today, with sirens going, we went outside to see if anything was visible. It was just a stormy sky to the west, where the tornado eventually did touch down.

Just a few minutes later it looked like this...

You could see the swirling in the clouds - not from rotation as you find in a tornado, but just because they were moving quickly.

Shortly afterward came the rain... lots of rain...

In only a few minutes - maybe 10 minutes - there was street flooding and the rain was over.

It's raining again now, and we've had a little bit of hail, but Hutchinson has fared better than many towns today. There is serious flooding in many areas of the state.

Mia headed back to Joplin and Mark headed back to Kansas City. Hopefully neither of them have run in to too much bad weather on their way home.

I called my friend, Leah, tonight, because she has family in Osborne, Kansas, where a tornado hit yesterday. I wanted to make sure everyone was OK and she told me a story about her 81 year old grandmother that summed up the average Kansan attitude.

This is the basic conversation between Leah's mom, Jennifer, and Leah's grandmother:

Jennifer: Are you OK?

Gran: Oh yeah... I just took my cheesecake downstairs and sat on the steps and ate it while the sirens were going off.

Jennifer: What else did you take besides the pan of cheesecake?

Gran: Nothing.

Jennifer: Mom, didn't you want to take pictures of your children or grandchildren?

Gran: Oh no, I've already seen them. I just made that cheesecake yesterday.

Hutchinson Tornado

Hutchinson, Kansas, where I live, (Reno County) had a tornado today. I appreciate the phone calls from people wanting to know if I'm OK - I am, and so is everyone I know. It was minor. I will post more info but wanted to let everyone know I'm fine, my house is fine, everyone I know is fine. I will post more later.