Weather or Not

For those of you who don’t live in the Plains states or the South, you really don’t understand how great the weather is here. Sure, New England has its colorful falls and mild summers. The Rockies have their snow-capped mountain glory. And, of course, the West Coat has fun, fun, fun ’til daddy takes the t-bird away. Still, we have one thing here in abundance that most parts of the country–the world, even–do not have.

We have tornadoes. Lots and lots of tornadoes. And I love them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do understand how dangerous these meteorological monsters are and how much damage they cause to life and property. Few probably know it better. A few years ago, a dear friend of mine and my wife’s was killed, along with her husband, when a tornado wiped their house clean off its foundation. About that same time, my father was nearly killed when a twister swept through the middle of the factory where he works. I’ve known several people over the years who have either been affected personally, or who knows someone who has been affected, by these violent storms.

I don’t care. I love them anyway. I understand that there are forces on earth that do more damage, that dwarf the mere tornado in terms of scale and power, but nothing packs so large a punch in so small a space as a tornadic funnel. A good EF 4 twister, bearing winds of more than 200 miles an hour, can drive a two by four through a large tree trunk. A hurricane may look more impressive in a satellite or radar view, but to the naked eye, such a huge storm loses scale. It just becomes a very violent storm. With a tornado, you can see the damn thing coming for you like some twisting devil from Hell, tearing up all in its path. Even after the skies have cleared, you can follow the path of the tornado and tell how wide it was, how long it was on the ground and, with a little experience, how fast the winds were moving. Hurricane damage is impressive–look at the aftermath of Katrina–but it’s so widespread that it overwhelms the senses. With a tornado, the funnel may hit one house, skip over the one next to it, and demolish the house on the other side. There’s a level of unpredictability to a tornado, even in this day of advanced meteorology, that you don’t get from any other type of weather.

Now, at this point you are probably wondering if there is a point to this post. There is. At some point in the nebulous future, I want to do two things related to tornadoes. First, I want to spend a spring in Texas or Oklahoma chasing tornadoes. My wife thinks I’m crazy for this (well, not just for this) and is very reluctant to let me go, so I’m waiting for some time when I can sneak out and not be missed for a month or two. Second, I want to write a book where a tornado, or an outbreak of tornadoes, is not only important to the story, but is almost a central character, possibly even the antagonist. I know not everyone shares my fascination in this area, but I think the inherent drama of tornadic weather would lend itself to a great, great novel. Think of how The Perfect Storm translated from nonfiction to the screen and imagine that with tornadoes.

My question, dear readers (both of you), is whether/weather or not there are any novels out there like this already. I certainly don’t want to rehash what someone else has already done, so I need to know what’s out there. If anyone knows of a title or finds one that has tornadoes as a central device, let me know about it so I can look it up.

In the meantime, I just found out a few days ago that our normally-locked-down intranet at work can actually pull up weather radar through one of the weather sites. So much getting anything done at work when it storms. Ever.

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