Storms come in all sizes, in different forms and at different times. Many are predictable and most are forgettable. But, sometimes, those storms hit close to home and close to the heart.
If they don’t impact our neighborhoods directly, it’s easy to turn off the television, go to bed and forget them. Even if the rains pound, the winds swirl and the lights occasionally flicker, most times we awake to calm and the familiar order of things and we go about our lives.
But not always.
Several years ago, I drove through Joplin, Mo., months after a devastating tornado had cut a swath through its landscape. I was stunned that the devastation was still so raw and so widespread. Years before that, I had passed through Wichita Falls following its killer tornado and felt the same sadness – as well as the same awe – at the destructive power of nature.
Saturday night, I watched non-stop weather coverage of tornadoes forming in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the blizzard to the west and the flooding all around, mesmerized by our scientifically accurate ability to pinpoint tornadic rotations. I was astounded by the forecasters’ ability to predict, to the minute, when the devastating forces would arrive in specific communities. I started clocking the heavy rainfall and the winds outside by the images on TV. This is akin to watching real-time war news, I thought, and shuddered at the thought.
It is fascinating. It is awesome. It is awful.
I could not help thinking of the perfect storm – how imperfect it all is.
Watching from the safety of a warm home makes it both more real and less so.
I took the time to text friends and family whose homes on the other side of the Metroplex seemed to be nearer the storm front than my own. And I received back messages and pictures of them “hanging out” in the safest spots available – huddled on the floor of an interior pantry with a 3-year-old and a personal device; another household with three adults and five puppies crowded into a small laundry room for the duration of the storm. Still other friends reported pouring a glass of wine, lighting a fire and waiting for the all clear signal. We all cope in different ways.
The storm passed; everyone I know personally emerged safely, only a little the worse for worry.
This morning, approximately 36 hours after the “weather event” that we had expected and been warned about, officials are assessing damage and affected residents are going about the business of picking up their lives. Sadly, people died; many other lives will never be the same. Still others – perhaps many others – were saved due to the early warnings, continuing media coverage and accurate forecasting.
There are many helpers as well. The emergency crews are out in force. Concern is widespread. The pictures and the accounts of selflessness, caring and assistance are as awesome as the storm itself. We humans are nothing if not resilient.
This one hit close to home, physically and emotionally. Still, I feel like a bystander. I watched the storm from the warmth and comfort of my own home, with my loved one by my side. I am grateful for the weather tracking, news reporting, warning signals and digital communication.
They are all comforting, but maybe they’re problematic as well. Is it possible that it would be better not to know the details in real time? I don’t know the answers. I know that some in this city looked the storm in the face and survived against all odds. I watched their stories on television.
Despite massive damage, only a few lives were lost. That doesn’t make it better, however. We can predict the storms, but we can’t control them. That’s worth a second thought.