Oklahoma Storms: What Is It Like Living in Tornado Alley?

Categories: Weather

Here's some Mom-O-Vision of the damage between my Mom and Grandma's house. My mom took it while driving to take my grandmother to lunch. On the way they found out that the cemetery where my grandfather is buried was completely destroyed.

"Honest To God Serious Question That Is In No Way Intended To Be Mean or Snarky: Why do people consciously choose to live in places that have seasonal natural disasters?" (Asked By A Person Who Lives In California)

This is a classist way of thinking that assumes that anyone who wants to can relocate to any part of the world at any time can. But there are many reasons why someone would choose to live in a place like Tornado Alley. They include: loves ones, roots, job, cost of living, opportunities. California, it should be noted, has earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires and mud slides. And those are all a lot less predictable than tornados.

"You Just Know That People Won't Move Away From Tornado Prone Areas But Proclaim They Will Rebuild."

Let's talk about the mentality of someone who has spent most of their life in Tornado Alley. The Fujita scale makes a handy comparison for Houstonians -- an EF5 is on the same level of severity and wind damage as a Category 5 hurricane. They're considered "once in a lifetime" storms.

The 1999 tornado challenged a lot of people's beliefs about such storms. Many people thought a tornado couldn't sustain itself in an area with so many buildings -- that it needed wide-open space to maintain its energy. That tornado and the one on Monday were both uncommonly wide -- Monday's funnel was more than two miles wide at one point.

One thing to understand about tornados is that they are extremely changeable. Forecasters can only predict that conditions are right for them, not that they will form with any certainty. And they don't follow a straight path -- they zig and zag, lift up and touch down again. The gym of my junior high, across the street from my Mom's neighborhood, was completely leveled on Monday. The rest of the school was totally unscathed. A friend asked me, "Why were the schools even open?" But people can't stay home from school and work every time severe weather is predicted. People in the path of Monday's tornado only got 10 minutes of warning to take cover.

There is also such a thing as siren fatigue. Sirens mean a tornado has formed and has been spotted in the area. But a siren can't tell you which neighborhood that tornado will hit, if it even touches down. Can you imagine, day after day of tornado season, huddling in a closet only to have no storm form at all? Eventually people being to ignore the warning, as evidenced by the dozens of bystander videos of Monday's storms that have popped up online the past few days. Add to that a sort of trademark Okie stoicism brought on by years of trial and tribulation, from the Dust Bowl to the Murrah Building Bombing.

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 few people thought another massive hurricane could hit the same spot so soon. But Rita almost did. I read a statistic somewhere that a tornado only hits the same square mile once every 700 years. It just so happens that those 700 years came to Moore only 14 years apart. The bottom line is that storms of this magnitude truly are very rare.

My Voice Nation Help

First of all, if you've voted for a GOPig and/or TeaTard last time, you need to pull yourself by your bootstraps.  Since you rabidly defend your belief on keeping taxes down & keeping the Federal Government out of your lives, you are on your own.   You will no longer receive FEMA funds.  Three huge tornados is enough.  You cannot rebuild & expect help from anyone, including socialized law enforcement, first responders, etc.  I think God is trying to punish the Christian base that has grown hateful toward others.  "Stupid is as stupid does", but not on my dime.  This whole area needs to be roped off & declared uninhabitable.  I would not protest if you made all of this area into a huge prayer garden.  We are not going to bail your ass out anymore.  


I appreciate this article. I too am a born and raised Okie, now Houston resident. People who have never lived in Tornado Alley don't really understand what it's like. I've actually been annoyed watching news coverage of the recent events because so many of the reporters are clueless. They almost seem to be trying to place blame for this natural disaster, a completely unpredictable and random thing. Thank you for shedding a little bit of light on the subject.

Duncan McAlynn
Duncan McAlynn

But it would have recognized the poor grammar. ;-) I'm just teasing. I love you guys!

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Actually, since we're is a word spell check wouldn't have caught that.


@DeathBreath  Here is what I suggest.  Let's name this Jesusland.  This is the Xian chance of a lifetime.  Show your faith.  Build a house & await your funnel flight home to him.  Halleluiah.  


@DeathBreath Why do you assume the worst?  Besides, your profile says you live in "Waco, TX."  So you're within the area roped off.  

By the way, blaming God is a Republican thing....

BrittanieShey topcommenter

@laura.sprehe Thanks for reading. I agree, I think the national news was what made me want to write this the most (plus DOZENS of Houstonians saying to me they'd rather live through a hurricane than a tornado).

Coincidentally, the NYTimes did a great story today on how Plains culture is, in part, one of the reasons why homes are not built with storm cellars. It corroborates much of my own experience growing up there.


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