Here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the weather is always perfect according to our standards. During the rainy season, it’s just like Spring back in the States with the storms and soft rain, and in the dry season, it’s like Summer. That’s all they have here, Spring and Summer.
But I note, that this time of year back in my home state of Texas, the storm season is coming up. This has always brought up exciting memories of my youth.
My dad was from Iowa, which must have had their share of bad storms. So, in the stormy Springs of the Texas Panhandle, Pop took the season seriously. Somewhere he obtained a tornado warning alarm that he placed on an ancient bookcase in the living room, and instructed us kids: If this thing ever goes off, run, do not walk to the cellar! As I aged and became aware of electronics, I realized it was a device that monitored barometric pressure. It was simply a barometer that had an electrical contact on the little needle that set off a loud buzzer. It was a device that did not detect the possibility of a tornado, but detected an actual tornado overhead! He was right. If that thing had gone off, there was very little time to even run.
In those years, we would watch the clouds overhead as they rolled and boiled with anger. The cellar was always a short jaunt, ready for us to dive into. It was exciting as a young kid to stand outside with Pop, expecting the fury of Mother Nature to descend on us.
In later years, I worked as a Maintenance Electrician at a manufacturing plant. One task that was given me, was to repair the tornado warning system installed at the plant. I replaced parts and got the thing working. Once a week during the storm season, I would set the thing off at noon on every Friday to test it, and to get people used to expecting it.
One hot, humid June day, when you could feel evil in the air, a tornado touched down less than a mile from the plant. It cut through several electrical lines that fed the plant, killing machines, lights and power. I became ecstatic! After setting the system off each week as a test, I could actually set the thing off on a real live warning!!
I ran hard to the First Aid Station where there was a trigger to set it off, and groped along the wall in the darkness and found the switch. And threw it.
Silence. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. (There was no power)
Dear Reader, I cannot fully express to you the big Disappointment (with a capital “D”) I had at that moment. I trudged back outside with shoulders down to my knees, and walked, not ran, to the Main Gate to watch the dangerous clouds that I could not warn others of. The plant manager we had at the time was standing there also. This gentleman was from one of those states up North where they have no tornadoes, and he was a little scared to say the least.
But he seemed relieved at the time as he commented that the tornado has gone and is all okay. I made the mistake of telling him, that if conditions were ripe for one tornado, they were ripe for many; and don’t just look to the Southwest where they usually came from, but also overhead.
It was at this time, the ol’ boy had a look of panic I’ve not seen on a human face. He turned white as a piece of chalk and looked up as if he was expecting lightning to rain down on him. He ran, not walked, back to the building. Where he went inside, I do not know, but the next day he Demanded, (with a capital “D”), that we add a battery backup to the warning system. My boss who had lived in the Texas Panhandle all his life, pretty much ignored his Demand because what happened that day, may take place once every few decades.
Several years ago, my wife who is from the great state of New York, took me up North to see Niagara Falls. As we stood there, with the thundering noise and the mist in the air, I closed my eyes and was reminded of a tornado. Those of you who have experienced a tornado up close, can relate to it. There is a thundering sound and vibration you feel in your stomach like when a train passes by closely, as the moist air whips around you.
I do miss the dangerous winds, lethal lightning and horizontal rain of the Texas Panhandle. As a close friend of mine who has the same passion I have for storms once commented, We can only hope for the worst.
To those if you in the Texas Panhandle, enjoy Mother Nature in her anger. For it is a wondrous sight to behold!