I complain about winter weather a lot, so maybe it’s time to complain about something else:
Yes, spring arrived, kind of, like the proverbial lion. The last day of March brought us a tornado watch and thunderstorm warning. However, considering the blizzard warning in Minnesota and South Dakota–at the same time tornadoes raged through much of the nation–I won’t complain.
Oh, who am I kidding?
In a Hoosier spring we can have a snowstorm one day, a flood the next, grass fires the day after that, and the traditional ice storm during basketball playoffs. It’s actually possible to have an ice/fire tornado, if the conditions are right. I mean, wrong.
So it comes as no surprise that the Governor was delayed by snow drifts on his way to declare March 12 through 18 Severe Weather Preparedness Week. I’d have done it myself if security hadn’t kicked me out of his office.
I waited to put this out until after that week, so if something horrible happened it wouldn’t seem like I was going for ironic.
As part of the celebration … er … observation, the State of Indiana educates, conducts alert system tests, and otherwise tries to keep people from getting killed. Honestly, nothing brings down a wonderful spring day like death.
I thought I’d help out despite the Governor’s restraining order, so let me explain what watch and warning levels and storm terms are:
A Watch means you should stay at your cookout, gaze at the blue sky and make fun of the weatherman right up until the first wind gust blows away your “kiss the cook” hat.
A Warning means that if you haven’t sought shelter, you will die.
A Funnel Cloud should not be mistaken for a funnel cake, which generally kills only one person at a time. Funnel clouds are just tornadoes that haven’t touched the ground; maybe they will, maybe they won’t. If you want to gamble, go to Vegas. Just to make it more fun, sometimes tornadoes reach the ground and start tearing things up even though the bottom part is still invisible. You could be looking at a “funnel cloud” right up until the moment your mobile home changes zip codes.
A Tornado is really, really bad.
Straight Line Winds can cause as much damage as tornadoes, but aren’t associated with rotation. You can often tell the damage path of these winds by finding people who are standing in the debris, insisting it was a tornado.
A Squall Line is what happens when I forget my wedding anniversary.
Thunderstorms are storms that produce thunder. See what I did, there?
Lighting kills more people than tornadoes, but of course tornadoes are more fun … um … attention grabbing. Tornadoes are like people who get drunk and try to jump motorcycles over sheds using homemade ramps: They’re senseless, spectacular, injury rates are high, and in the end nothing good comes from them except to remind people they’re bad.
Just the same, lightning is also no fun, and can strike miles away from where you think the storm is. Of people struck by lightning, 70% suffered serious long term effects, 10% are permanently killed, and 20% don’t admit being hurt, or didn’t hear the question.
The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but they can travel up to 70 mph … or remain motionless, which is really unfortunate if you happen to be under one at the time.
The average width of the funnel on the ground is about 100 yards. Think about that. And, like a flatulent Godzilla, that doesn’t include the wind damage around it. Some can get over a mile wide. (Tornadoes, I mean, not gassy Godzillas. Wow.) If you think about it, trying to outrun a 70 mph, mile wide tornado in a car is about as smart as trying to jump a shed from a homemade ramp after your tenth beer.
Tornadoes are most likely from April to June, which means pretty much nothing these days. The last time I took an airplane flight it was delayed by a tornado—in November.
So, when do you need to prepare for severe weather? Anytime. Remember, no matter what the season, it only takes a few beers to start building a ramp.