As a life-long Oklahoman, I know about tornadoes. Not that I’ve ever seen one, but I know a lot about them. Our weather forecasts are intense during the season with everyone looking for the red on the radar maps, recognizing the appearance of a hook showing circulation, just like we’re experts.

I was trying to remember tornadoes as a child in the 50s & 60s in Tulsa. We hadn’t seen The Wizard of Oz until it became an annual event on television. There were no videos or DVDs to play. The weathercasts on television were relatively new and showed maps with vague forecasts. In grade school, I don’t remember doing tornado drills, but I remember bomb drills. I think we got under our desks, a big deal in the 50s. We also did fire drills. Tornado drills? Not that I remember. There was a time we began to go to the hallways…when was that? I’m sure that was a tornado drill.

In 8th grade, we had a unit on weather and learned to identify all the clouds. Part of the assignment was watching the weather on television and learning to follow what they were talking about. Still not a lot on tornadoes. Isn’t that strange? I know we must have had them. My parents never talked about them or acted scared, but we also didn’t have 24/7 weather and news.

In college, I was in Stillwater at Oklahoma State University, where the wind whips across the plains and the campus. I remember tornadoes then for sure. We knew to go to the basement. During my first year of marriage, we had to evacuate to a local funeral home, crammed in with other people in a building built of solid walls. After we moved back to Tulsa, there was a time when my husband, children, the dog and I huddled under a mattress in our hallway while a tornado roared overhead close to us. Then we lived in a house with a basement and took refuge there on occasion. The day of my middle daughter’s wedding, we were sitting on the basement stairs, away from the basement windows, waiting out a storm.

Tulsa hasn’t had as many tornadoes as other parts of the state for whatever reason you want to hang on it. The older parts of town are supposedly protected by the river and by the advice of the Indians to build the city there where it wouldn’t be hit. That doesn’t help the people who live in the expanded city limits away from that legendary protection, of course. At one time, I volunteered for and then worked for the American Red Cross, teaching disaster preparedness, trained in disaster response. Shoes, flashlights, blankets, radios, a communications plan, and all the things you should know for any type of disaster. I bombarded my grown children with information to keep their families safe. It’s still my number one place to send funds in a disaster because I know they will get the money to the victims and back into the communities.


For people who don’t live in tornado-prone areas, let me tell you that we do take them seriously. Our weather experts are the best and we listen and watch intently. It’s a great way to learn your state’s geography as you watch a storm move through tiny towns you’ve never heard of. But, there are all kinds of disasters in life and each is as tragic or life-changing as the others to the people who are in it. Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, ice storms…I’ve been through all of those and they are pretty horrific. Man-made disasters are even more frightening in these days of terrorists and shooters and bombs.

In Oklahoma, we’ve had our share of tough times. Try the Dust Bowl for starters…there’s a disaster that went on for a decade! We are a stoic people, people of the land that is grand! We stand up to all the troubles that are blown our way with a sense of responsibility to each other, to help each other get back up. We’re awfully good at hugs. We care about each other. Today, I was driving home from a quick vacation in the south eastern part of the state. The trip was cut a few hours short in order to get home the safest way possible with the storms. When I saw clouds like these…


…I knew that a tornado could drop out at any time, whirling right at me. I wasn’t particularly worried, although I did look for a bar ditch to lay flat in for a worst case solution. There was something majestic about the storm clouds…you have to respect them. And be so very thankful that you and your family are safe for another day.

Tears and prayers and hugs for the victims of our latest storms…in Shawnee and Moore this week. Stay safe Oklahoma!