On days like yesterday, I think about growing up in the southeastern part of Ohio, just north of Dayton and about 30 miles from the Indiana line. Lots of flat land, lots of open spaces, and lots of potential for what we now refer to as “severe weather.”
I don’t know why, but I don’t think I remember ever hearing the term severe weather. We just–as I remember it–called it thunderstorms and, of course, tornadoes.
Twisters, sometimes, but usually tornadoes.
In the mid-seventies, when I was still fairly young, a devastating tornado hit the nearby city of Xenia, some 30 miles southeast of where I grew up. Not too close, but close enough that the “Xenia Tornado” was the measuring stick with which all spring, summer, and fall weather events were measured.
Even though the area where I now live suffered massive destruction during a “super outbreak” of tornadoes in 2011, Xenia still comes to my mind on days like yesterday. With today’s technology, tornadoes are still unpredictable, but only in that we don’t know specifically where they’ll hit.
On days like yesterday, we’ve known about the danger for a while. Three or four days earlier we knew the conditions would be right. Cold air moving in from the north, warm moist air moving in from the south, and a pretty good idea of where the two would collide. We knew.
We nervously move through the early hours of the day, on days like yesterday. The air is calm, almost peaceful, as if the local atmosphere doesn’t know of the pressure changes that would soon pull it away. Without an apparent reason why, though, clouds start to form by mid-morning, thunder is heard in the distance, and the leaves begin to rustle.
Some folks like me start to feel an urge to turn on the TV, comforted by the broadcast of benign programming, anything other than the local meteorologist providing play by play as the weather marches in from the west. Here in north Alabama, it’s almost always from the west, especially on days like yesterday.
We knew it was coming, and it did. When it was all said and done, my immediate area, just south of the Tennessee line, suffered nothing worse than nearly four inches of rain falling in just a few short hours. Some broken branches, a few power outages, and we were able to sleep soundly by ten o’clock.
After days like yesterday, one looks to the news to find out who wasn’t so lucky. Six tornadoes, ranging in strength from EF-0 to EF-2, all within 100 miles of where I live. More than 60 tornadoes across the south stretching from Texas to the Carolinas, millions of dollars in damage, and at least 32 people who’ve seen their last severe weather event. May their families find peace and comfort.
That’s what it’s like, after days like yesterday.