Thursday, February 26, 2009

A New Twist on Tourism

Ahh Tornado Alley. I live in it. YAY!

For those of you who do not have this privilege, let me tell you that from an early age (elementary) we are given instruction on what to do in case a tornado heads our way. Believe me, if you haven't spent some time in the school hallway, on your knees, bending over with your arms over your head, during a tornado drill, you have not lived.

Can I get an Amen? HA! Anyway, I tell you this so you understand that I have a healthy appreciation (and fear) of tornadoes. When spring comes around, which is traditionally the beginning of storm season (though this year it seems to have started in winter), you can be sure that my mind automatically and unconsciously calculates the most internal space available in whatever building I'm during a storm. (It really does, just like my brain automatically calculates Italian time when I look at the clock.)

Now, don't be thinking I'm all obsessive or take cover whenever there's even a slight chance of tornadoes. I don't do that. However, I have been through one and it makes an impression. But normally, I am not that nervous during the season, just keep a watchful eye on the weather. My Italian on the other hand, did not grow up with extreme weather conditions. He has a tendency to "freak" out a bit when severe storms come our way. (shhh don't tell him I said that) I am completely surprised he has not yet built a storm shelter in our home. HA! I will admit though, he has gotten much much better =) But with his fear comes a fascination with tornadoes, that I cannot conceive. Evidently, he is not alone in that.

Over the last several years, it has come to my attention that a new tourist attraction has been created. Storm Chasing. People from all over the world descend upon our fair states looking for the awe-if not fear-inspiring onslaught of tornadoes, hail and severe storms that roam Tornado Alley. These are tours folks. Tours which have the ultimate goal of seeing a tornado spawned from the sky.

For me "storm chasers" are trained people who work with the weather centers and news meteorology teams to let them know what is developing. They are quite an organized group, full of HAMM radio operators, many with in-vehicle radar screens and whatchimacallit weather related gadgets. But not anymore. Recently, we watched a BBC produced show of a group of English travelers on a tour. In Italy, out of the beautiful town of Teolo, you have these guys who ride along with experts from OU every year. My Italian explains that while of course these storms bring about terrible damage and heartache for the people involved, it is one of the very unique "American" experiences a foreigner can have. Kind of like visiting the Southwest. It is the awe-inspiring raw power and sometimes terrifying beauty of nature.

In light of this, he dragged me to a severe storm seminar. *sigh* You would not BELIEVE how many people were in attendance! I am not even exaggerating when I estimate around 400. The place was packed. All of us were there to learn how to identify characteristics of severe storms, possibly tornadic storms, in the cloud formations. I learned a lot. As much as I griped (internally) about not wanting to go, it was actually very interesting. I even found myself a little excited about the phenomena. Anticipating severe weather so I can put what I learned into practice. What is wrong with me? lol

I am such a nerd.

More later...


Linda said...

I'm a nerd too. I love weather and like to watch the weather channel. Something about knowing what's going on weather wise around the world fascinates me.

Valerie said...

I remember tornado drills in Ohio, huddling in the school hallway while the tornado siren sounded. Eerie, and still gives me chills to hear the siren sound.

It is fascinating...just don't get too close or stand outside with a camera instead of heading for the basement when a tornado is heading your way! :)

Tracie B. said...

be careful up there!!