Growing up in the Midwest, the spring "tornado season" is taken pretty much for granted. We all know there will be thunderstorms, cracks of lightning whose thunder rattles the window frames, wind that blows all the new leaves back to the ground. Maybe hail that is big enough to dent cars or sit in little ice-balls in the yard, melting slowly while some of us hide in the basements and the rest run for the video camera, hoping to catch the funnel cloud or the particular color of ash-green the sky just turned.
I, by the way, am a basement-hider. Not that 90% of you didn't know that already.
Half my heart is in the Midwest year-round, with so much of my family there.
And what's going on the Midwest and parts of the South right now, when it comes to weather?
It's not normal.
Not that there really is a "normal".
I should say, instead, that it's scary.
We are looking at at least 173 dead in the most recent set of storms to rip across the United States, a huge number of them in Alabama, a state not entirely prepared for tornadoes and no one could ever be prepared for that many of them.
The Mississippi and Ohio rivers are flooding. There are photos of people in Cairo, Illinois building sandbags to try and hold off the worst of it. Cairo? Cairo was maybe an hour from where I was living last year, in Carbondale. My friends in Cape Girardeau, Missouri have been going to the basement more often this year than I can recall any of us having to go in the past six years, when I was in southern Illinois. My friends in Carbondale, still at Southern Illinois University, are talking about tornado sirens going off while they sit in class and their teacher continuing the lecture, since there aren't a lot of places safer than whatever classroom they're in at the time.
I've done that. I've been there, sitting in class tapping my foot wishing the teacher would let me go hide in the bathroom or something, just so I couldn't hear so much of the hail smacking into the ceiling and the walls.
My family in Central Illinois is getting rain after rain, pounded by it. Planting crops is getting a hugely late start this year thanks to the rain. When it's not raining, the ground is so wet they still can't do much. There's a chance that in the next week, the sun will out enough to help, but it's only a chance, and more rain is yet to come. Farmers get irritable, commiserating over endless cups of coffee at local diners, glaring outside at the gathering gray clouds. I know that sentiment pretty well; there are always seasons where the rain starts too early and lasts too long.
This is not a normal year for weather.
Not that there is a "normal". But this is definitely unusual.
I am crossing my fingers for my friend Lynette and her husband in Alabama, for everyone in that state, for those people only beginning now to try to figure out how to rebuild the utterly demolished parts of their towns and cities. I'm crossing my fingers for our friends Stevie and Jason and their kiddo Nolan in Cape Girardeau, watching the Mississippi waters rise. Crossing my fingers for everyone dealing with the aftermath of tornadoes and these crazy storms.
And of course, I'm crossing my fingers for my dad, my grandpa, and my uncle, for them to be able to get the planting done as soon as possible. I cross my fingers for all farmers, every year.
But I'll learn how to cross my toes for this one.
Send out prayers, good vibes, whatever you can spare to the people walking around their flattened neighborhoods and trying to figure out what to do. Send out love and goodwill (and any help, if you can spare it) to those desperately building sandbags and flood barriers against the rivers.
If you don't mind, send out some hope to the people being affected by all this. Hope that things get back to "normal"... by which, hope that things calm down, that people can get back to the business of living, get on with rebuilding, and don't have to watch the skies anxiously to see if it's only going to come again.
I'll be over here, fingers and toes utterly crossed for them.
That is, if I ever figure out how to cross my toes.
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