Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Floods and Tornados

Nothing underscores the difference between living in Florida vs. living in the Midwest as much as a tornado. Having grown up in Chicago, I learned that tornado warnings were as common as dandelions in spring and fall. Every Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. I'd hear the tornado siren tests. Sometimes the sirens would scream in the midst of a storm, and we'd troop down into the basement and nervously ride out the worst of it, hoping we wouldn't hear a "freight train" rumbling overhead. Fortunately we never had a nearby touchdown. I even remember driving with hubby to pick up a propane tank and seeing a funnel cloud dancing in the green sky off in the distance.

We have tornados in Florida too, but it's a much different matter. There are no warning sirens or basements. You're pretty much on your own. Granted, you can turn on the TV, but Fox News et. al. go into frenzies of anticipation the minute the skies even hint that they might spawn a tornado. They break into programming and show the radar ad naseum to the point where you'd never know whether they're tossing off "what ifs" vs. actually referring to a real tornado baring down on your home. It's the classic case of the boy who cried wolf: if a Florida weatherman told me a tornado was in my backyard, I wouldn't believe it until it blew down the door.

But even if you know it's coming in Florida, you're pretty much shafted because 90 percent of the houses have no basements. Duloc Manor is shotgun style, with three exterior walls covered with windows. In the best of times, I love all that sunlight. In tornados, windows become the enemy. We only have one potential cubbyhole to hide in: a Harry Potter powder room under the stairs. It's barely large enough for a toilet and sink, so imagine it being crowded with two adults, three cats, and a quaker parrot.

Actually, we'd probably have to leave our crazy cat, Tooncinator, to the fates. He spends 90 percent of his time under the bed, conversing with the voices in his head. If you touch him in a way he doesn't like, which pretty much includes all touch, he'll bite and scratch the living snot out of you. By the time we could ever get him out and stop the bleeding, the tornado would no doubt have already ripped the house down.

Today was one of those "tornado days," the culmination of a stormy week. Fox News was in a feeding frenzy, interrupting my court shows so the weatherman could play with the various radar views and go over the horrifying possibilities with obvious glee. Sometimes I picture the entire newsroom in a prayer circle, asking the fates to send a killer storm so they can rush out and cover the devestation, thus ensuring plenty of extra air time. They're even worse in hurricane season...any time a fish farts in the Atlantic, they'll already referred to it as a named storm and projecting its killer capability.

For the moment the storms have settled down, although we might have Wave Two tonight. Meanwhile, I'm gauging the odds of whether I'll be able to figure out if a tornado is really heading our way and, if so, how I'll control the manic housepets in the Harry Potter room.

If you've ever thought about becoming a mental health counselor, check out my new book, "So You Want To Be A Counselor," by visiting

No comments: