TORNADO SEASON IN OKLAHOMA–BY CHERYL PIERSON

Growing up here in Oklahoma, every spring was the same story—tornado season. My dad would carry me out on the front porch with him to watch the clouds. He’d talk about them, and command the thunder to roar! The lightning to flash! Looking back on it now, I understand that he was trying to teach me not to be afraid of the weather, and it worked. And maybe he was trying not to be afraid, too.

In those days, there was little to no warning before the storm hit. In today’s world, so many improvements and inventions have come along that our weathermen can pinpoint the minute the storm will hit a certain area. There is round the clock coverage on the three major stations when we are in a severe weather watch. They also broadcast from sister-station radio channels, in case you’re not near a television or are in a storm shelter. Doppler radar is one of the greatest life-saving inventions that ever happened, in my opinion.

Every elementary school child here is trained in our “tornado drills” just as they are trained in fire drills. How well I remember the hardships of trying to crouch on our knees, bowed over next to the walls in the hallway! At that time, most little girls wore dresses. Our biggest worry was trying to hold our dress down so no one could see our underwear.

Most families here don’t have storm shelters or cellars.  Most houses don’t have basements. Our home was no exception—no basement and no cellar.  Our water table is so high here that it’s hard to keep the dampness and/or flooding out. Even the pre-fab shelters are sometimes prone to leaking water. I’m proud to say that last spring we figured out a way to add a storm shelter (above ground) to our garage and STILL get both cars in–it’s a tight fit to get everything in the garage and everyone in the shelter, but I sure sleep better at night knowing it’s there.

One of my enduring memories was of the time when I was about five years old and we were caught at my grandparents’ just before the storm hit. They had an old root cellar—dug out of the red Oklahoma dirt, with an old tin door that my grandfather had made, and some cinder block steps that led down into the darkness. I remember my mother not wanting to go down into the cellar for some reason. (She probably knew what lurked down there!) And when I got down there, I understood. My grandfather lit a kerosene lamp and we could see spiders…There was an old cot against the wall, and Mom and I sat down on it. Across the cellar, no more than 5 feet away, there were rough shelves that my grandmother’s jars of canned goods lined. And in the space between two jars…two eyes looked out at me.

“Look, Mama…there are eyes looking at us,” I said. In the next few seconds, I found out something about my granddad I would never have suspected. He could move like the lightning above us outside! He had everyone stand to one side, and he took up a hoe and an axe from the corner (hmmm….this must have happened before down there!) and quick as anything, he had that snake out of the shelf and on the floor with its head chopped off.  I learned later it was a copperhead.

Public shelters? Few and far between. Liability is a huge responsibility that no one wants to assume. And in these sue-happy days, it’s a very real possibility that organizations who are just trying to be good neighbors and offer safety could lose everything to one lawsuit. This is true of governmental and private organizations alike. Another fear, quite justified, is the fact that many people trying to get to a shelter create a traffic jam and are sitting ducks.

 

 In light of all the tragedy that has happened in past years here in our great state, I’m relieved to learn that FINALLY there is some positive action being made toward outfitting our schools with a safe place for the kids and teachers to be. That should have been done long, long ago. Of course, it’s all a matter of money. It’s expensive to do. But what price can we put on a child’s life?

 

 

I guess we can say that is the “silver lining” to all this. Thanks to all of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers, each and every time this happens. What a country we live in! I’m so proud to be an American. We have our differences, but when tragedy strikes, no one stands together like we do. I’m so thankful for that.

This is one of the most touching pictures I’ve seen. It reminds me of how, someway, there’s always someone who manages to fly Old Glory in the direst of circumstances and remind us that we are all just human beings, trying to make it in this world, helping one another when our world is literally ripped away from us. There is such an outpouring of love and help from all over not only our own nation, but other countries as well when this happens, and yet–for whatever reason, we are always surprised and humbled that others care so much.

 

Last but not least, I leave you with a picture of one of my favorite Oklahomans, Miranda Lambert, who was, at this point in time, married to another favorite Oklahoman, Blake Shelton. Blake organized a benefit concert and got tons of performers, not just fellow Okies in the business–to come out and give their all for our ravaged state 4 years ago when we were last hit so hard. God bless them all!

 

 

I’ve never written a full-blown tornado into any of my stories, but I’m thinking that might be something I would like to try. Do you remember ever being in a tornado, or seeing one? What was it like?

Cheryl Pierson
A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 37 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.pierson.92
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25 Comments

  1. Cheryl- great topic. I grew up in Texas and we didn’t have a basement either but after several bad storms threatened us, my dad had an underground tornado shelter installed and like your family it was a great place for housing can goods. My dad in the summer would just go down there & set to cool off from the Texas heat & himdity. Our shelter became the entire neighborhoods shelter.
    I now live in Kansas and about 7 years ago we had a tornado come through town. I have a basement in my home and I thank God everyday for it. It’s a peace of mind. I remember being in the basement as the tornado came over. The barometric pressure and the eerie feeling that day I’ll never forget. We were spared, a few homes were torn up a little, but we were very fortunate. I agree we are so thankful for the newly update advance warning that save lives daily. God bless you and I’d love to read one of your books with a tornado in the story. Have a Happy 4th of July. Hugs!! ???

    1. Hi Tonya! I have often wished for a basement! Houses in West Virginia have them a lot (where hubby is from). We did end up getting a small above ground shelter in our garage. I can’t climb up and down like I used to be able to, and the dog would never be able to do it. Now, I have peace of mind, but I’m hoping I don’t ever have to use it!

  2. I fear storm season here in Texas all the time. I have had tornadoes go over the house but luckily never had any damage except for broken trees limbs and torn shingles. And I will never forget the freak storm of December 2016 (the day after Christmas) demolished neighborhoods just a few miles from us. Some homes and businesses are still in the process of rebuilding. That tornado went right over our house (my husband was outside looking at the sky and saw it and ran back inside). I have always been scared of tornadoes, but that one made the fear even worse. Driving through the areas days afterwards was like looking at a war zone with all the damaged and flattened homes.

    1. Janine, how often I remember through the years (before we had the radar systems we do now and the warnings!) my dad going outside to look up at the sky and the rest of us waiting for him to tell us what to expect. LOL I have never had a tornado going over my house, but one hit about a block away.

  3. I live in Oregon and a tornado is very unlikely. All victims of these storms are in my prayers.

    1. Estella, that’s how it was when we lived in West Virgina, but one year not long ago they had a derecho–I am not sure if I spelled that right–it’s a violent wind storm and it really knocked out a lot of things and destroyed stuff there. They have more flooding out there though, than we do here.

  4. Great post, Cheryl! Texas has sure had a tornado or two and they are so frightening and devastating. Thirty – five years ago a tornado hit the town next to us. I took shelter in an intetior closet with a new baby and a four year old. It was such a scary experience. Sixteen years ago we moved into a house with a basement. I go to the basement at the threat of a dangerous storm.

    1. Oh, Melanie! I can’t even imagine how afraid you must have been! It’s one thing to be able to ride something out by yourself, but when you have kids it just changes everything and increases your fear 10 fold, I think. So glad y’all were all right!

  5. Wow! So glad you have never been hurt in them. We have tornado season here in Michigan in the spring. We have had a few go over us and around us, but none have been big enough to flatten houses, thank goodness. I remember one as a child that took some of our wagons on the farm and turned them all around and flattened our crops.

    1. You know, it seems that there are more instances of tornadoes in other places other than “Tornado Alley” these days. I wonder if any state in the union is safe anymore with the way the weather patterns have altered!

  6. Luckily, I live in PA and they are very rare and usually small when they do hit. I guess every place has it’s pros and cons. We get less sun then most and there is flooding in some areas but nothing like what you are talking about. I lived in MS when my husband was in the service and we had a hurricane scare so I’m glad we don’t have those either!

    1. Yes, catslady, I think you’re right about every place having its own particular pros and cons. People say, “Oh, I could never live where there’s____!” But whatever it is, there is someone else saying the same thing about where others live! LOL

  7. Live a few states up in nebraska we had storms last night no tornado’s but the winds did a number in some area of the state. If someone asks is there a movie I can see about tornado’s if there moving to an area with the greatest risk i tell them Twister is the best one out there. Hope everyone down in oklahoma stays safe this tornado season.

    1. Kim I love that movie Twister! I think I’ve seen that about a hundred times. The weather guy on there, Gary England, was a real weather guy at the time that movie was made on our CBS local channel. He was the BEST when it came to tornado time. Most everyone in the area watched him. He’s retired now–still alive and kicking, but doesn’t do the weather anymore. They filmed it all here in Oklahoma and it really has become a ‘cult’ classic!

  8. We live in NE Tennessee along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Everyone believed tornadoes don’t hit in the mountains. They were all proven wrong in April 27, 2011. There were multiple tornadoes which hit the area that night killing 24 people in the region. A couple were EF-3’s, but most were much smaller. No one here has storm shelters, there is no need, so they thought. Not that many have basements. Since they hit about 1 or 2 in the morning, few people saw them or really had any warning. One ripped the roof off a neighbor’s garage a few hundred feet from our house. It jumped over a house across the street not 40 feet away and didn’t damage the house or trees right around the garage. It damaged a barn and continued through the fields. Other than debris, we got no damage. Since then, there have been more minor tornadoes in the area.
    When we lived in Colorado Springs, we had a closer call. It was mid-day and there developed a huge, rotating, perfect cylinder of a cloud. I took my 3 children and maybe 4 or 5 of the neighborhood children along with my husband down into our basement. You could hear a loud rumble, the air turned greenish, and the hairs stood up on our arms as it passed right over our house.
    What amazes me about tornadoes is how much damage can be done in one area, leaving something nearby untouched. We drove through Moore, OK shortly after their big tornado in 2015. Everything in town looked fine. We turned a corner and on the left all was normal. To the right there was nothing but devastation as far as you could see.

    1. Patricia, I remember growing up my mom telling me that tornadoes didn’t go into the mountains or cross water. She often said, “I don’t know what I’d do–I can’t swim, but I’d be tempted to jump into the water just to get away from one!” Of course, neither one of those things is true, but in my childish mind, I thought, “why don’t people just get in a bathtub full of water, then?” LOL

      The devastation in Moore was something else. I don’t think I could live there. They have been hit over and over by tornadoes–some of them taking the exact same path. They say that’s coincidence, but…too much “coincidence” for me!

  9. I live in west Texas, so we are also prone to tornados. The one I remember most is the one when I was in 1st grade. My Daddy had called my mother to tell her to go look outside because there was a tornado in the distance. (Daddy thought it was interesting. He grew up in Oklahoma and I guess he hadn’t really seen one in Texas and he didn’t realize it was so close to town.) I was walking home from school with a friend and she tripped and fell in the street. When my mother came outside to help her, we could see it. We all went inside and I showed my younger sisters how to “assume the position” like you said. The tornado lifted right before it got to the edge of town.

    1. WOW, Susan! That was a close call, all right! My closest call was when I was in high school and we went next door to our neighbors’ house that DID have a basement! Right as the tornado was about to hit, my mom looked at me with this stricken look and said, “OH GOSH! I think I forgot to turn the stove off!” So my best friend and I ran out across the neighbor’s yard and through the wind and rain to my house and of course, the stove was turned off. LOL It actually struck about 2 blocks from where we were not long after we dashed back across the yard to the neighbors’ house.

      1. Wow. That was really close. Closer than we were.

  10. I remember once several yrs back a tornado came thru I told my husband something was crashing outside he had already gone to bed for the night for this was late at night his reply was go to sleep and you wont here anything. The next morning I opened our back door and there lay one of our huge oak trees at our back porch that had just missed our house by mere inches. I immediately went and got my husband and told him I told you I heard something crashing and he was flabbergasted for we had several oaks blown down.

    1. Glenda, that’s one of those times you wish you didn’t have to say “I TOLD YOU SO!” LOL! Just glad it didn’t hit your house!

  11. Cheryl, I’m sorry I’m late responding to your post. Tornadoes are not something I like to talk about. But lately I posted pictures and told how it was when we went through the 1979 tornado in Wichita Falls. It’s something that lodges in your soul. We laid flat on top of our kids in the hallway of our house and didn’t even have time to put anything on top of us before it was there. I still remember how the walls sucked in, the horrific noise that chilled me to the bone, and things landing on top of us as the roof went. I just knew we were going to die. I was praying the entire time and God protected us. I remember the sight when we dug out and utter devastation as far as I could see. It looked like a war zone. My first thought was, “What are we going to do now? Where will we go?” My youngest was only 6 months old and needed milk and diapers. Night had descended when we finally started walking toward the house of woman I worked with. She was a good friend. A car stopped and picked us up and drove us the mile to her house. So lost. So alone with nothing to my name except the clothes on my back. That’s what I remember and though I try to forget, sometimes it rises up, a horrible reminder of that grave time in my life. It changed me forever.

    1. No wonder you don’t like to remember and talk about it! I wouldn’t either! You all sure did have a guardian angel watching over you that day, Linda. And of course, practicality would take over in your brain at a time like that–“How am I going to get food and diapers for my baby?” Even though people say, “At least you were alive!” yes–that’s something to be so thankful for, but still, to have everything you worked so hard for just ripped away in a matter of minutes turns your world into chaos! Thanks for sharing your story. You are one of the few people I have known personally that lived through a tornado that was that devastating. Thank the Good Lord!

      1. Cheryl, I feel very blessed that God was watching over us. The only injury was a cut to the top of my baby’s head. It ripped the shoes off my two older kids’ feet. For the longest they slept in all their clothes even to their shoes, wanting to be ready to run. Such a horrible day that was filled with miracles. It was the worst and most frightening day of my life.

        1. Aw…that must have broken your heart as a mom that they felt so afraid for so long. XOXO

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