During this time of the year, my thoughts return back to the days of my elementary childhood during the late fifties and early sixties. I could always tell when spring was arriving by what would always appear on our TV around mid-March on a late Sunday afternoon. The movie “The Wizard of Oz” would be shown every year and kids across the country would settle down in front of the TV for an evening of watching Dorothy trying to get back to Kansas.
Something about those flying monkeys in that 1939 movie always gave me the creeps and still does to this day. But the tornado that took Dorothy away from her family seemed to bother me a lot more than some fake monkeys with wings. Last year, on Good Friday, I came very close to understanding what Dorothy experienced in that movie as I huddled in a bank vault with people I had only met while going through the doors into the concrete walls of that financial institution.
It was on April 10 of last year that a major tornado hit Murfreesboro and Rutherford County. It did destruction, as well as caused death that I hope we never have to relive again. Due to the day being a holiday for me, my wife and I met my son for lunch; and as we left the restaurant, tornado sirens began to blare. That alone gave you goose bumps, but the green sky and the rain turning to hail soon told us we needed to take cover. A bank was close by, so we ducked into the SunTrust facility and were greeted with much more than a smile and a hi-de-do. Their radio and TVs were warning of a tornado in nearby Murfreesboro and urged folks to take shelter. With the employee’s encouragement, we went into the bank’s vault for safety. I have heard of people trying to take it with them when they leave this earth, but this was going beyond the call for me. The employees were very professional during the crisis and their help was very welcomed. After the danger pas sed we left the vault and immediately started trying to contact our children who live and work in the ‘Boro.
They turned out to be safe, but that time of waiting to get calls through already tied up circuits, was a nightmare for a couple of parents. There is a lot of difference from that movie and real life happenings experienced that day those storms chose our part of the world on that Good Friday afternoon. Just by clicking the heels of her ruby red slippers Dorothy returned home and she once again could realize that there is not any other place like being in your own bed and house. But, for the hundreds of people who caught the brunt of the tornado’s fury, the majority did not have the opportunity to say those famous words she spoke, “There is no place like home.” The mid-South and Tennessee have now even earned a new nickname as “Killer Tornado Alley.” The frequency of fatal tornadoes in Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas now make our part of the country more deadly than Dorothy’s “Tornado Alley” of the Great Plains. Scientific study shows that the Great Plains area still has more tornado type storms, but southern tornadoes seem to be more fatal. More tornadoes in Tennessee are likely to happen at night; and with an increasing population the chances of people being home when the storms hit are greater. There are things we can do to help cut the statistics during these storms if we would only do it. The first attempts at tornado awareness came about in those early days when the “Wizard of Oz” was shown on TV. The next day at school, after its showing, the movie was the general kid-talk held around the lunchroom table. The discussion usually came down to what you would do if a tornado came your way. And, what should you do to prepare yourself for such a storm? Here is what Homeland Security recommends: “¢ Be alert to changing weather conditions.
“¢ Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
“¢ Look for approaching storms
“¢ Look for the following danger signs: 1. Dark, often greenish sky
2. Large hail
3. A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
4. Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. Go to a basement and leave mobile homes. Listen to the warnings and don’t take storms for granted. Hopefully, the only tornado you will have to experience is the one in the movie and maybe an occasional flying monkey every now and then. But, a bank vault is also a great place to hide from a storm.