Column: Don’t be like my dad!

May. 05, 2014 @ 11:42 AM

When I was in sixth grade, an F1 tornado ripped through my neighborhood in Mount Holly, outside of Charlotte.

That evening, bulbous, anvil-topped clouds inched over the neighborhood while my family and I took our evening summer stroll. Already nervous of storms, I kept pointing out the clouds to my parents.

“Stop worrying,” my mom said. “Those aren’t even storm clouds.”

I can still feel the overwhelming grip of fear around my young heart just an hour later as I watched the flashes of power lines burst in the darkness and listened to the hungry howl of the wind. For the rest of that summer and many years after, every time the breeze got too rough or the sky turned a sickly orange color, I was rocking back and forth in terror.

Recently, I’ve developed a fascination with these storms that terrified me as a child. Out of boredom, I was flipping through NetFlix one day and stumbled upon Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” reality TV show. Watching these guys drive in the direction of tornadoes caused a thrill-seeking itch to form inside me, and suddenly my fear turned to fascination for this power of nature. I wanted to be inside one of the specially designed vehicles with a video camera on my shoulder and following a monster wedge as it roared over the Oklahoma plains.

But, there’s a difference between grabbing a video camera and actually knowing anything about weather. I’m no meteorologist. With my luck, I’d never find a tornado, and if I did, it’d be right on top of me.

Let’s go back to that storm in sixth grade for a minute. While I was cowering against my mom, my dad was having way too much fun right next to the windows. Shining our only flashlight out the windows, he whooped and hollered over how cool the view was outside. He was proving to be the worst example of severe weather safety imaginable, as his face was practically touching the window pane in his excitement.

The supercell storms that caused so much devastation throughout the Southeast this past week never came to Caldwell County, but others like them might one day, so remember that safety is the number one rule. While you could become a YouTube star from a five-minute video of Caldwell County’s latest tornado, it could be the same five minutes where you become seriously injured or worse because of a careless decision. As much as I want to be a “storm chaser,” I realize that I am a journalist, whose interest in tornadoes can be considered only a hobby and not a career choice. My lack of expertise in weather patterns and storm developments means a day of staying indoors for me.

I do have the utmost respect for those individuals, whom some may call “nut jobs” as they actively try to get as close as they can if not completely inside a whirling funnel of destruction. They are providing a valuable service with research that will give meteorologists data to better predict and alert towns of possible tornadoes before they hit.

If you do see a tornado, don’t be my dad! Seek shelter, stay away from windows and protect your head. If you are outside or in the car, do not try to outrun a tornado. Find a ditch and take cover. Stay safe, everyone.