It’s raining today. It’s one of those constant, steady rainfalls that doesn’t let up for the entire day. As I’m sitting on my balcony, enjoying the rain and the excuse to be lazy and not change out of my pajamas, I’m reminded of one aspect of Texas I do not miss.
I grew up in North Texas and spent the last 6 years living in Central Texas. While there were many wonderful things about living in these areas, like Tex-Mex, Bluebell Ice Cream, and endless summer days spent at the lake, the absolute worst part about living there, hands-down, was being in Tornado Alley.
Tornado Alley is the stretch of the Midwest and South/Central US where the highest frequency of tornadoes occur each year. This area is where the cold, dry air of the Rocky Mountains meets the warm, moist air of the Gulf of Mexico. The combination: ideal Tornado conditions.
For some, this is exciting. They are the tornado chasers and the people that risk their lives standing outside to film the tornadoes. I have some friends that are indifferent about it: they neither get excited when one comes, nor do they freak out if there is a warning. For me, I am terrified.
My first real memory of fearing a tornado dates back to when I was a kid, around the age of 7. I remember my brother and I were climbing the giant Cottonwood tree in our backyard that was perfectly positioned where we could jump from it onto our trampoline. It was evening and the sky quickly changed from a normal grey/blue to a greenish tint. My mom or dad came outside and told us to come in immediately, there was a tornado warning and we needed to take cover. In Texas, we don’t have basements, and we had a one-story house so we had to take shelter in our bathtubs and cover ourselves with a mattress, as opposed to being able to hide under the staircase in a two-story. But of course, my brother and dad fall into the former group where tornadoes excite them, and they were outside trying to catch a glimpse of the funnel. This resulted in me practically having a panic attack in the bathroom thinking we were all going to die.
We didn’t die, obviously, (although that tornado did do some serious damage at the lake only a few miles from our house) and I survived dozens upon dozens of tornado warnings over the following years, but the fear never eased up. I think it largely has to due with the fact that there is virtually nothing you can do to prepare for one or prevent it, they can happen in the blink of an eye, and in Texas, we don’t really have safe places to take shelter from them. To me, that’s terrifying.
As an adult living in Texas, this fear basically took the form of anxiety. Anytime a big storm came, I would have on every TV and radio and would not be able to sleep until the storm/warnings had lifted. I also had multiple weather apps on my iPhone and in addition to lying awake at night and refreshing the Doppler radar every 5 minutes, I would receive SMS text messages of updates and warnings. This meant I literally didn’t sleep as my phone was constantly going off.
I also suffer from terrible nightmares involving tornadoes, most frequently during tornado season (April-June), but really they can occur anytime. I will probably have a tornado nightmare tonight since I wrote this blog post and have been doing research over them. Dang it.
You know one thing I love about living in Germany (out of many things, of course)? No tornadoes. Now this statement is technically not true, because I’ve done my research and actually Germany averages about 10 tornadoes a year. But I can live with that because that’s nothing on Texas’s average of 153 per year. Not to mention the US holds the number one spot in the world for highest average of tornadoes per year (over 1000).
So, thank you Germany for giving me the pleasure of finally being able to enjoy a thunderstorm and a nice rainfall without experiencing anxiety.