Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Just waiting to die and stuff

Hey everyone! I’m just sitting here, on my couch, waiting for a tornado to come and kill me and my family.

Normally, I’m not so scared of things like a 9 hour tornado watch, but this year, The Tornadoes have put together an unstoppable no-nonsense offense, and are having an epic season. And they’re heading my way… maybe… possibly. So, I’m just waiting to see if they show up, monitoring the weather situation, which you cannot do without also monitoring the Oklahoma situation, and if I described my mood right now, it would be some combination of pants-shitting and holy-fucking-horrified-vomiting.

What can you even do in a situation like this? When I lived in the Midwest, I always sort of took “I have a basement” for granted. Tornadoes sirens go off, you just move to the basement, come up after you’ve watched a few shows, and no big deal. But I’m in Texas now, where there are no basements. And where I’m also in a non-ground-floor apartment… and… things aren’t so “easy” when deadly weather is approaching. Which is, you know, stressful.

But at the same time, I’m astounded and grateful for the technology that allows me to be stressed out for hours while I wait to die. Because it’s that technology that even gives me a chance to survive. Last year around this time, we had some nasty tornadoes blow through DFW, leveling towns, but because of the technology that allowed everyone adequate time to prepare and take cover (and sheer luck, I’m sure), no one died. And as devastating as yesterday’s storms in Oklahoma were, things could have been far worse—an outcome I cannot even begin to emotionally process right now. But lives were, no doubt, spared because people were given time, even if that time is a terrifying and horrible one to experience.

So I guess, hooray that I’m sitting here shitting my pants because maybe it’s better I shit than to not know I should be shitting even if maybe not shitting feels better?

Are you shitting out through any weather right now? Are there any cool things you do while waiting for the earth to come violently claim you and your loved ones? What should I do if we all live through this? Party? Double party? Clean my couch? Send a thank you card to Mr and Mrs Doppler?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. When Sandy hit this area, I spent most of my time gathering information online as much as possible because I was watching from my window as transformers and power stations blew up all over the place in the valley below. I’m bad at distracting myself I’m afraid.

    After the storm, I suggest booze, and lots of it.

    1. I just want to clarify though, that booze suggestion is a standing, general piece of advice for almost any occasion.

  2. I’ve become rather blase about tornados. I’ve only ever been near one, and I was like 3 years old at the time, so I have only vague memories (and those may be 2nd hand). This despite living in Texas and/or Kansas for, officially, most of my life.

    I’d say what they always say with tornados… interior room with no windows. Stash a little bit of supplies in there (i.e. water, snacks, booze, maybe a radio and/or phone charger), then relax… but keep the TV or radio on for alerts. My mother stress-bakes, which I enjoy.

    1. Yeah, I’ve lived north of Dallas all my life and am just pouty that I’ve never seen a tornado. Whoop-tee-do: another day of friends, family, and creepy FB acquaintances calling and messaging, asking me to be safe/if I’m OK/to evacuate when I have actual work still due today. A little rain never hurt anybody, and it’s all that ever happens.

  3. My family lived on the SW FL coast through the hurricane seasons of 2003-5, and got the fuck out of dodge to an inland area of considerable elevation before the arrival of season 2006. When, of course, nothing of particular note happened.

    Tornadoes scare the ever living fuck out of me, so you’ve got my sympathies for your pants shitting.

  4. Tornadoes aren’t frequent here, but my ancient house had its roof torn off 100 years ago in a twister. These days I am more (literally) sweating out the unnatural weather. Spring in the northeast should be a joy to work outside (which I do), but it already is pushing 90 degrees and is supposed to stay that way indefinitely. It sucks working outside in opressive heat and springs weren'[t like this when I moved here 20 years ago!

  5. We live close to Dallas — the city limits are less than a mile away — so I’m more concerned about thunderstorms and possible power outages than tornadoes. When I was a kid, though, and this area was mainly fields and low buildings, a tornado came within blocks of us; one house had its roof blown off, but others around it were nearly untouched. I remember tornado drills at my (Catholic) school, where they made us sing hymns to keep our minds off impending doom and onto life after death.

    Naturally, the grade school approach won’t work anymore. While waiting for the Universe to stomp you into paste like an ant on concrete, I’d suggest catching up on Game of Thrones or your brain-candy of choice. Those with kids might be stuck with Teletubbies. In case the power goes out, keep candles and a book handy; again, parents may have to settle for Dr. Seuss or worse.

  6. I was in Baton Rouge for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I wasn’t terribly freaked out awaiting Katrina, until I heard on the news to beware of alligators and snakes that would be displaced from the storm. It was then I decided I had moved to the worst place on earth. And then I shoved a million towels under my door to keep out the snakes.

    There is never any breeze in Baton Rouge, which was a big change for me, who grew up on the windy east coast. Well, one day it was actually breezy and I really enjoyed my walk home on that breezy, sunny day. Except that then when I got home, there was a tornado watch announced. Of course. Of course that was the only possible reason for there to be even a breath of wind in an otherwise sweltering swamp. (And I’m with you, tornadoes scare the crap out of me. I say celebrate with a double party when the pants shitting is over.)

  7. One of the things that was a negative of moving from West Virginia to the flatlands of NC was that I now had to fear tornadoes. Thankfully, my mother-in-law lives next door, and has a half-basement. That’s at least convenient, if no less terrifying.

    One thing I’ll say for WV, you tend to avoid most of the natural disasters.

  8. When we lived in Guam it was typhoons(hurricanes) which my then two year old managed to sleep through(how do they do that?) I was lucky in that our housing was reinforced cinderblock and had already survived an earthquake and a supertyphoon before we moved in. I hated the waiting for it, even though it was good to have time to prepare. Make sure you have books or cards for if/whenyou lose power. Also battery operated lanterns. When Sandy hit last year we made sure we still had plenty of supplies and batteries and then had an anime marathon, kept the weather undergound website up on the computer to track the storm. I couldnt sleep all night waiting for a tree to fall on the house. After, we had no power for a week so the cards came in handy(so did the beer cooler). My favorites were fluxx and pirate fluxx also, zombie fluxx. I restarted the Game of thrones books too. The Northridge quake sucked, I hate earthquakes you can t get away and the hundred after shocks give you heart failure every time. I have never seen a tornado and have no desire to. Stay safe and try to find a good distraction.


    Tornado watch for the next two hours but the storms have passed, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be here tomorrow.

  10. Not tornadoes but cyclones have affected us indirectly.But recently with the drought and hot weather there was a fucking big bushfire only a mile from our place and we only found out about it 2 hours later.
    The point is, while real time wind tracking, and plotting and linking on the net, has been developed into a fine art, the same does not apply to fires. It seems to me that a great deal could be done to improve this. Is it the same in the US?

  11. I live near downtown Phoenix. We get some decent wind sometimes and I might get some dust in my eye when a Haboob blows through, but that’s about the extend of it. Well, that and the heat. But it’s already hit 110 in my home town. I tell people I moved to Phoenix to get away from the heat. :P

  12. When I was a kid, maybe 8 or so, there was a huge storm. We rarely get tornadoes in Winnipeg, they happen sometimes on the prairie but extremely rarely in the city. This was one of those extremely rare times. So both my parents and my brother were out and I was stuck alone in the basement listening to the howling wind and the tree branches smashing into the house. There was a river about three blocks from the house, turns out the tornado came down the river. I saw it the next day, trees just torn to shreds all along the river. I would have been terrified if I hadn’t been on the phone with my friend, she kept me calm the whole time.
    Glad you guys are okay :)

  13. I’ve lived in OKC and a suburb of the same since 2004 and before that I lived around Dallas for just about all my life. So bad weather for me is something I’m quite used to. I remember as a child standing between the curtain and the glass patio door watching the lightning flash and the wind and rain howl for many storms. If I was shooed away (and my parents often shooed me away when I did this), I found another place to watch the storms from if I could. Or just sit and play or read. It never was a big deal for me.

    When I went to college I found many people who were scared of storms big time. Some to the point of paralysis. It was the first time that I ever encountered that and it was amazing to me because for me the whole event was a wonderful thing to watch. I remember sitting for about thirty minutes one time watching a storm go over an interstate where I was driving. No rain, no wind, but a very strong rotation with a slight wall cloud. Fantastic stuff.

    But I can tell you tornados when they become real and in front of you are terrifying to behold because they are the stuff of raw nature that you can’t do anything about. The first time I saw an actual tornado I was coming home from work and one was just touching down in El Reno. I turned off on my exit and when I topped the bridge going over the interstate, I looked to the west and could see the clear iconic shape on the horizon. At that point and knowing the storm was moving directly east and right at me, I went into overdrive.

    I foolishly spent about 20 minutes throwing everything from one side of the garage to the other to make room for one of our cars because there would be hail and I hated the thought of having to pay for the repairs. The whole family gathered in the living room and we turned on the news to watch the reports. What was left of the wall cloud went right over my neighborhood, along with a nice supply of hail.

    Luckily in both Dallas and in OKC the weather forecasters have been superb with excellent tools of their time to locate and track these things as they moved through.

    Right now we’re dealing with the fallout of the Moore tornado. People are all emotionally spent. We all know someone who either is there in the search and rescue or who lives in Moore. We’re all committed to help out in what ways we can. My biggest wish is that one day we have the resources to offer better tornado safety than we have now. Because of the composition of the earth around here, basements aren’t reasonable. Safe rooms can only withstand so much in regards to a tornado. When you get to an EF5, there’s not much available that can be safe.

    And as far as terror in a storm? Tuesday we had a gentle thunderstorm roll through, but I was online watching it the whole time even though there was no threat predicted.

  14. I live in metro Atlanta, and we had a tornado pass through back in 1997. At the time I was living with a friend in a mobile home (like living inside a beer can, never again!) and when we saw it was headed for us, we decided to leave and camp out in her parent’s basement. We ended up driving right through the path of that tornado and I’ll never forget the sight of that funnel cloud in my rear view mirror. Scared me half to death, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I’m a lot calmer about storms now but I listen to weather radio a LOT. I also volunteer for a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and an animal rescue group called Red Rover. I figure I have to live through it so I can help with recovery afterwards.

    My Mom’s freak outs about storms are legendary so my friends and I use that as an indicator of how serious a storm will be. A call from the National Weather Service means roll up the windows, a call from NWS and my Mom means turn on Channel 2 (she doesn’t believe in that internet thingie during storms, it’s not reliable) to check the radar and a call from NWS, my Mom and my best friend means pack up the cats and head for shelter, just in case. Without the first two, it’s not considered an Official Storm and bonus points are awarded for extra phone calls from Mom as she’s camped out in the basement with two howling cats and my father.

    Obviously my means to cope with anything is humor.

    1. Ah, yes. The Atlanta 1997 tornado. Remember it well. It ripped the roof off the bedroom Maria and I were sleeping in. I had lived my whole life in an active tornado alley and never been bothered by them, then the first one that hits Atlanta in years lands right on my friggin head. Bastard storm.

      Had to live in a hotel for a week and ALMOST missed recording an episode of Babylon 5.

        1. Yes! Trauma!

          Actually, naw, the tornado was really scary. Woke us up to the sound of this incredible crash. The plaster ceiling was still over the bedroom, but when I went outside I could see that the roof structure was gone and rain was just hitting the ceiling. We had time to pull the bed out of the way before the ceiling came down. Hid out in the downstairs neighbor’s apartment for a few minutes until we felt it was safe to leave, then had to drive around downed trees to get out of the apartment complex and made it to a hotel.

          When we came back the net day, the complex was all fucked up. Amazingly, the only casualty was a cat.

          Even though we got our security deposit back, it was a long time before either of us could sleep through storms again.

          And I still have no idea what the people in OK went through.

          1. Yeah, that thing was NUTS! I didn’t realize at the time how bad it was, it skipped down 75 and then bounced around 285 heading for Dekalb County. I worked on Ashford Dunwoody so I saw the damage the next day. After my roommate and I got home, I remember trying to go back to sleep and then our phone ringing like crazy from people making sure we made it through.

            I can’t imaging living in any of those states in tornado alley, those people have nerves of steel.

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