Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oh, Auntie Em!

An outbreak of 54 (maybe more) tornadoes hit the South and Midwest over the weekend. I had a personal stake in whether or not severe weather would hit this area as I was camping with my family. As the father of two young babies, I made the decision early in the morning on Saturday not to take any chances and get out of that campsite. Having been on top of the Peachtree Plaza eating dinner at the Sun Dial when the tornado hit downtown Atlanta on March 14, 2008, I can tell you that there is no more of a helpless than when you find yourself in the position of having nowhere to go when such a disaster strikes.

Tornadoes can strike anywhere, even crowded downtown business districts with skyscrapers. Despite this, people still refer to the Downtown Atlanta Tornado of 2008 as a “freak tornado.” It is simply a matter of chance as to why we mostly see tornadoes strike rural areas. Tornadoes are just as likely to hit major cities and they do. Still, people tend to think that severe weather only hits poor, white people. One of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck” observations posited that, “If you’ve ever been on the evening news describing what the tornado sounded like… you might be a redneck.”

I was never fond of severe weather before that March night two years ago, but that incident aggravated my anxieties. Tornadoes don’t care about your affluence or your race. They are not attracted to trailer parks or other less than sturdy dwellings. They form tens of thousands of feet in the air – well above the tallest skyscraper in the world. Pay attention to your local meteorologist this time of year. If severe weather is forecasted, an evaluation of your activities needs to be conducted. “Is it that important that I go to Target tonight?” The answer is probably no.

If your plans include buildings that don’t have basements, it is probably better to stay home. The chances are remote that a tornado will strike your home, business, or hangout, but you can reduce the risk of bodily harm by staying in a safe place during these kinds of events. You can also help fight class and racial stereotypes by realizing that you, too, could be in the path of a deadly twister one day.

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