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August 2020
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Tornadoes…it’s a Southern thang

By Angela Reinhardt

Staff writer

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It’s Monday morning and I’m exhausted. 

“What’s wrong, Angela? Not feeling well?” 

No, that’s not it. I’m tired like most people in the county after overnight tornado threats kept everyone awake into the wee hours, “hunkered down” in a much different way than COVID-19 has kept us “hunkered down.”

A meme I saw on Facebook Sunday summed up what I imagine our collective thoughts were as forecasts became increasingly grave.

“You know what this pandemic needs? Tornadoes!”   

You could almost hear it if you listened hard enough – a unified “You’ve got to be @!*[email protected] kidding me. And on Easter Sunday??” 

Georgia doesn’t compare to the number of tornadoes in south central U.S., but our state’s northwest corner is in “Dixie Alley,” the Deep South’s cousin to the infamous Tornado Alley. Oh, we north Georgians know our tornado threats, yes we do. With those sickly-green skies and eerie siren calls, tornadoes bind us together like some terrifying cultural glue. 

As embarrassing as it is to admit I was a nervous wreck Sunday, a likely result of me obsessively tracking the storm. My love-hate relationship with Glenn Burns became apparent. He keeps me “weather aware” and entertained with his quirky Facebook posts about UFOs, but he had the nerve to be so frank as to say things like, “It’s going to be bad. I’m not going to sugar coat it,” in addition to posting maps with giant swaths of counties colored blood red, which seemed to imply, I don’t know, impending death?  

I don’t want to see that, Glenn. I DON’T’ WANNA SEE IT. 

Bedtime rolled around and my loose strategy was to get the kids down and try to sleep through it. I had almost dozed off when my phone sounded like a banshee around 1 a.m. 

TORNADO WARNING: CLOUD FORMATION THAT COULD CAUSE TORNADO HEADED EAST FROM RANGER AT 60 M.P.H. 

Ugh. 

We lived in the direct path in the Jerusalem area. Still, knowing when to make the move and cover yourself with a mattress has always eluded me. Do I wait until the roof starts coming off? Go ahead even if it’s just a tornado watch? Are helmets overkill?   

I went into my son’s room. He was asleep, but woke up after a couple seconds to me sitting at the foot of his bed in the dark. Tracking.

“Ummmm...why are you on my bed, mom?” 

I told him we should go into his sister’s room, the center-most room in the house that butts up against a bank. The three of us sat a while, then the mood calmed down a little as the menacing red weather band marched east. We reminisced about other tornado experiences. I told them about 2011, when twisters destroyed homes a couple miles from the house. That night I was in the very same room with them, trying to keep my then much younger kids calm. I told them I felt like an idiot in my chunky-heeled boots the next day, wading through debris, interviewing people who had just lost everything - and that was also the last time I chose to wear heels to work until last year. 

Of course, my husband slept through the entire event this weekend, which alludes to a whole different breed - people who stand on the porch and say things like, “I’m not going inside, I want to see it coming,” or measure lightening distance – and ability to do outside activities - by counting “One Mississippi, two Mississippi.”

They’re probably right. The chances of being killed by a tornado are low, and the Tornado History Project shows just 10 tornadoes here since their data begins in 1950, in the years 1959, 1974, 1975, 1985, 1994 (2), 2002, 2009, and 2011 (2). Still, tornadoes are sneaky devils and pop up out of nowhere unlike their lumbering counterpart the hurricane. No wonder so many of us were up until 3 a.m. looking retrospectively goofy with helmets and flashlights, and armed with whatever padded items we could find. 

But thank God the forecast looks clear for a while, according to Glenn, and we can get back to regular old COVID-19 hunkering down. 

Good times, right? 

Also...is 7 o’clock too early for bed? Asking for a friend.