April showers bring May flowers. Too true of a statement. Just after the Japan earthquake I thought to myself how I’ve never really experienced a natural disaster. However, after Charlotte’s gross storm on Saturday night I suddenly realized I have been experiencing them every spring for the past 20 years. I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and every April, tornados were just the norm. Not a week would go by in the month of April where there were not multiple tornado warnings on the news at night, tornado drills in the schools during the day, and the sirens going off when the weather was getting pretty bad. I’ve had my fair share of frightening moments…waiting for the city bus after school with the clouds forming over head, cramming into the hallway closet because we did not have a basement, pulling off the road and into a ditch because we heard a tornado was headed our direction on the radio. I would say if you’ve lived in the area, you know how to prepare yourself and how to take precaution. Still, twisters form fast and can be over in seconds.
A few years ago one whipped through Murfreesboro, TN leaving some suburbs in complete ruins. Before that, the one I can barely remember but has been the most deadly in my region was in April of 1998. On April 16, 1998, at least ten tornados swept through the Middle Tennessee region, three of them touching down in Nashville causing great damage to downtown. Nashville became the first major city in nearly 20 years to have an F2 or larger tornado make a direct hit in the downtown area. One of the tornados reached a F5 on the Fujita scale that touched down in southwest Nashville, one of two to ever be recorded in the state. The tornado outbreak that lasted two days destroyed 300 homes and 600 businesses but fortunately very few fatalities. Ask any long term resident of Nashville and they will be able to recall where they were during this storm. I vaguely remember spending the day crouched in the safety position of my elementary school until my mother picked me up and then spent the rest of the day in the closet.
Tornados can cause horrific damage and deaths and should always be taken seriously. However, I will not lie that whenever the sky gets dark and everything becomes quite and still outdoors and then the sky takes on a faint orange color, my adrenaline starts to rush and I get a bit excited. I have definitely thought of what I would do if a tornado touched down in Charlotte and was headed towards Queens. I would want to be one of three places – in the back offices of out library’s basement, the bottom floor of Wireman, or the creepy but underground basement of Belk Hall. So, while I have never witnessed anything as large scale as Japan, I can say I know the feeling of panic and preparation when the warning is issued for a twister…which has a very large possibility of turning into a destructive natural disaster.