Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tornadoes are part of life in Kansas, the heart of Tornado Alley. The National Weather Service's severe storms center is in Kansas City for a reason.In KC they blow a loud, shrill siren if there's a tornado watch on, which is several times a year at least, and I remember tornado drills at school. The thing about tornadoes is that they're usually rather small and do intense but very localized damage. The majority of them just wreck some farmer's crops out in a field or knock down some trees; they don't usually touch down where people live, as population is pretty sparse west of about a Lincoln-Wichita-Oklahoma City-Fort Worth-San Antonio line, and not real dense anywhere west of the Mississippi.

Very few people are actually killed by tornadoes, maybe fifty a year in the US, I'm just guessing, but their sheer power is tremendous. The rumor / joke that trailer parks attract tornadoes like a magnet has some truth to it, since if you're inside a solid structure when the tornado hits you're likely to come out OK, but if you're inside a trailer or something else just thumbtacked to the ground, you're toast. So the tornadoes that make the news are the ones that kill most people, and the ones that kill most people are the ones that hit trailer parks.

This tornado story is pretty scary; that tornado was a monster, just look at the photo. It really did wreck a whole town, and destroyed solid masonry structures like schools and downtown business buildings. They'll be very lucky if there are only four people dead.

One thing is that the weather on the central and southern Plains, what they call the steppe in Russia, can be pretty wild. Lots of thunderstorms, occasional flash floods, blizzards, "blue northers," the "Siberian Express," ice storms, hail. A weather pattern will get started and there's nothing to slow it down but a few barbed-wire fences as it sweeps across the plains. The sky can be very impressive in those parts--it goes on forever, all the way to the horizon, and sometimes it gets agitated.

Here in Barcelona the weather is boring most of the time, which has its positive side, of course.

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