I’m getting the rig packed and ready to head to Claremore, Okla., for the 65th edition of the Will Rogers Stampede.
Of course, I’m well aware of the severe weather throughout this region of the world, just two days removed from the deadly tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., and killed at least 123 people. Although that would’ve been along my chosen path from home to Claremore, I’ve opted to take an alternate route through eastern Kansas instead.
I’ve spent most of my life in the area called Tornado Ally, so this is nothing new to me. I saw my first tornado in the lat 1970s when we lived in Texarkana, Texas, and I even outran a storm one Sunday afternoon in the mid-1990s:
I was leaving my parents’ home in Leoti, Kan., in order to get to my post in Dodge City, Kan., when I heard the distinct sound of a weather advisory indicating a tornado was on the ground north-northeast of Leoti. I thought, “That should be to my left.” Yep, it was. Gas pedal meet floorboard. I drove as fast as I could, slowing down only for other traffic and the towns en route, all the while listening to the weather reports on the radio. As I took 90-degree turns to make my way to Dodge City, the storm took the direct path over the countryside. I wheeled into the parking lot at the Dodge City Daily Globe, ran inside and into the storm shelter in the building’s basement just as that same tornado hit.
In Oklahoma, a tornado watch is an indicator for residents to hurry home so they could barbecue and watch the storm brewing. But tornadoes are no joking manner. A friend posted on Facebook today that his home in western Oklahoma took a direct hit and that one horse had been killed. The Weather Channel is reporting that at least one fatality has been reported from the tornado that hit near El Reno, Okla.
There is a beauty about the storms. I prefer to see that beauty from a distance, and I pray for those affected.