The Whirly Wind Cometh

I'd planned this week to write a scathing condemnation of the Democratic Party's transmogrification of the White House into something resembling a high-rent Motel Six. I had planned, that is, until late Saturday afternoon when Mother Nature once again showed us who is boss.

Not that I ever had any doubt. As I've written before, I've tasted her fury in typhoons and earthquakes. I know she is a temptress who colors the world beautiful with one hand, and then sometimes smites her creations with the other. And it's no more her penchant for unpredictability than her astounding beauty that causes us to label her with the feminine pronoun.

I've always been something of a weather buff and the advent if the Weather Channel has made that pursuit a lot easier. It would take the genius of someone like Ted Turner to conceive of a 24-hour, all-weather station tucked away there in Atlanta and manned by the best meteorologists money can buy. They have all the latest equipment and know how to use it.

And with all that, we didn't get a smidgen of warning before the storm struck here Saturday. That little lone supercell sitting out there in front of the squall line looked bad even to the untrained eye. Indeed, a tornado warning was posted for Crockett County because of the same cell. Gibson County later got warnings but no warning was ever issued for Carroll County.

Watching its movement during the radar images, it suddenly dawned on me that if it didn't dissipate or alter course, it was going to come right through McKenzie; we're easy to spot on the maps, because all you have to do is find the junction of our three counties. What I saw caused me to do something unheard of on a lazy Saturday afternoon when I'm not planning to get out of the house: I shed the bathrobe and donned some clothing. It was as if some natural law had been broken, for I seldom alter my routine to that extent.

I've seen the sky look far more ominous than it did Saturday without the accompaniment of a tornado. I recall once, back in the early seventies, standing in my yard on Winston Street and watching a classic "supercell" far back to the southwest. It was a monster in the afternoon skies, dark blue and climbing probably 50,000 feet, the top sheared toward the leading edge in the classic "anvil" found in storms that stretch into the upper winds. Beneath it a large bubble hung, the "wall cloud" from which tornadoes are most frequently spawned.

As the storm got closer and passed over that hanging bubble was spinning very slowly and there were pieces of scud being torn off the bottom of the cloud, but no funnel ever descended. It was an awesome and frightening site, but it was not for all its imposing stature the destructive beast that found our town Saturday.

I was listening to the police radio Saturday, because law enforcement agencies frequently are advised of adverse weather first. And too, some of the lawmen are good at spotting impending bad weather and making some comment--just prior to the incident here Saturday, one McKenzie officer quipped that they might ought to "head for high ground." Probably a couple of minutes later came the first mention of a possible funnel cloud and then almost immediately came word from Patrolman Dennis Taylor that Tommy's Carpet was "gone," which sent me scurrying toward the front yard.

I heard the roar immediately after running out onto the front porch, coming it seemed from back somewhere beyond Paris Avenue. And then I heard an eerie whistling sound and noticed that the tall pines across the way had begun to vibrate and quiver. At that point I saw the debris plume revolving beyond the trees, small bits of insulation and other matter spinning in clear air beneath the bottom of a cloud. Before I could get to my car and a camera it was gone on up the pike.

If our event Saturday was a disaster for some as it surely was, we were still fortunate. It could have been so much worse--reportedly the tornado that hit Arkadelphia, Arkansas was a mile wide. If something of that nature had taken the path the storm took Saturday through McKenzie there's no telling how many casualties we might have had. If Gaines had been in operation at the time the toll could have been high. If, if, if, the word that always follows in the wake of such natural calamities.

Tornado season is just starting. I usually don't pay that much attention to it, but I suspect this year it may be a different matter. I suspect a lot of other McKenzians are going to be the same way, we're going to take heed when those clouds begin to get ominous. It seems the prudent thing to do.

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