I’m doing the best I can on this muggy Wednesday morning to get my thoughts together and convey them in logical sequence. Weather warnings befuddle my thinking, and the state of Oklahoma has just been issued another doozy. In the living room, my favorite TV weatherman is telling me I’m going to die at some point before this column hits the stands Saturday if I’m not in the storm shelter the split second he tells me to go.
That’s pretty much the same thing my less-than-favorite weatherpersons competing for my attention on this household’s other three TVs are warning, too. Yes, a total of four TVs, not counting the battery-powered one snuggled up against the down-under hidey-hole that the good folks at Smart Safe dug into the floor of my garage eight years ago. On the heels of what could be last week’s tragic sequel, I’m prepared to snatch up Su-the-dog and race for cover the minute one of those weathercasters says it’s a go.
And no, a total of five weathercasters looking out for my well-being is not overkill. I grew up in the depths of semi-dark dusty Oklahoma cellars huddled shoulder to shoulder with cousins holding family pets, their mothers clutching keepsakes — the family Bible, photo albums, ancestors’ silverware — while the men and older boys stood at the top of the cellar stairs debating the track that whirling black clouds overhead were likely to take, their wives pleading with them to come down.
Spidery insects left the dusty jars of canned goods lining the shelves behind us to examine us cousins where we sat, but we didn’t start trembling in fear until whatever the men had seen topside brought them clattering down to join us, the last of them barring the wooden door and all of them manning the attached chain intended to keep the door closed against the storm’s whirling suction, eager to swoop us up and deposit us in the next county.
After the danger had passed, I wasn’t one of those who climbed out of the cellar to see dwellings intact and the sun breaking through and, like the men, mumble in embarrassed bravado, “Waste of time!” as though they’d have preferred damage. “Let’s get on back to the fields. Wheat’s not going to bin itself.”
No, that wouldn’t have been me as a child, and certainly not as a mid-teen in 1947 when the giant Woodward F-5 tornado leveled over a hundred city blocks, destroyed a thousand homes and businesses, injured almost a thousand people and killed more than a hundred.
Largely because of that tornado, with technologies available after World War II, the National Weather Service set up a media warning system that has contributed greatly to today’s drop in tornado deaths statewide. I can’t tell you how happy I am to avail myself of their services.
MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.