Captain’s Log 6,024
It was May 5, 1964 (not 1963 as I thought earlier today). At 7:05 PM, a tornado now classified as level F3 roared through the north side of my hometown. The thundering roar was mistaken for the Illinois Central train that always blasted through town about that time. All I really remember was seeing a tornado that was wide and approaching rapidly. This storm came quickly and without warning. It was upon us in seconds.
Not the actual tornado of 1964 but an image that gives you the perspective of flat Iowa land being over-run by a monstrous storm.
On May 6, 1965, a series of killer tornadoes (probably all classified as F4) hit the Twin Cities. Big Sister Mia was newly married and living there at the time. Right near the Mississippi River – and directly in the path of destruction. She spent the night in a ground floor apartment with her neighbors as twister after twister roared down on their community. She said they watched semi trailers being tossed like toys down the freeway. The destruction was incredible.
Not sure if the family survived this or not.
Senator Hubert Humphrey and his wife survey the damage several days later.
Needless to say, I was completely terrified by black skies and impending storms for years. On more than one occasion, when Mia and I went to Iowa to visit our mother for her birthday, we had to deal with tornado warnings, funnel cloud sightings, and massive rain storms. One night we were trying to drive back to our hotel and the lightning flashes clearly illuminated the funnel clouds hanging low and ready to touch down. It was harrowing.
One day while swimming at the community pool, I glanced out across the prairie to see something like this.
Odd level F1 storms that pop out of the clouds and rip up a fence or two or tear some shingles off the house. They are not as deadly as the big storms, but they are also impressive to watch.
So every May I am reminded of what it was like to live in Tornado Alley in the spring. I remember the Civil Defense sirens jarring us awake in the middle of the night. The night before Mia moved to San Diego (in the spring of 1984), we had gone to a band concert at the high school to hear my niece play. About 10 minutes into the concert, the sirens went off and we were herded into the locker rooms near the gym to spend several hours waiting out the storm (which only knocked out power across the Twin Cities but didn’t really cause much damage).
There are challenges no matter where you live. The Midwest has tornadoes and blizzards (and floods). San Diego has wildfires and earthquakes. No place is perfect. But, in all honesty, I must say I am glad to be away from tornadoes. Really glad.