Monday, December 1, 2008


Is Iowa City a little gun shy since the April 2006 tornado or is there an actual reason to be testing tornado sirens in December? Isn't there a rule written down somewhere that tornado sirens don't need to be tested once there is snow on the ground? Welcome back from break; we're testing the tornado sirens, and the severe thunderstorm sirens, and the woozy, drunken-sounding sirens that have never been explained, but seem strangely appropriate for Iowa City. 
And then my cell phone explodes and for a moment I think I may have to eat my words. The UI might be texting me to explain what terrible event triggers the woozy siren: chemical spill, biological attack, zombie apocalypse? Alas, it is just my roommate asking what's up with the sirens and whether of not we need to worry. I reassure her that it is simply the first Monday of the month and the sirens are just being tested. "Good," she replies, "I really didn't want to get out of my bed." I look outside my slightly frosted window at the dusting of snow on the ground. Tornado siren testing in December--arg!
This is where the coffee gets to work. I'm less cranky and more objective. My knee-jerk Monday morning response to tornado sirens crumbles under the weight of logical reasoning, a little research, and a caffeine buzz. You should know I have this thing about tornados. As a kid I wanted to be a tornado chaser (I can assure you this had nothing to do with Twister, the wonderful movie it is). I job shadowed a local meteorologist and piled into my station wagon at the fist sign of inclement weather to, I don't know, see a tornado up close. I gave up my dream of tornado chasing long ago, but I still find myself fascinated by tornados. That being said, 2008 may end up being one of the deadliest tornado seasons on record. It is difficult to look back at the beginning of this year and see it as anything recognizable. Iowa had just carried out its caucus. Less than a week later on January 7, 70 tornados were reported throughout the Midwest.  About a month later, on Super Tuesday (February 5th) there was another outbreak of severe weather. 87 tornados were reported over a two-day period. Of course, there was a terrible tornado in Parkersburg, Iowa on May 24th and a June 11th tornado hit a Scout camp in Little Sioux, Iowa near Omaha. 
The point is, this very year there were tornados in January and February. During the winter. As much as I love sleeping in, especially on cloudy, snowy Mondays, I also believe in preparing for the worst. If this year's tornado season is the beginning of a trend, those of us living in tornado alley may need to be prepared for a longer, more severe season. If that means dealing with the woozy, zombie apocalypse siren on the first Monday of every month, I think I can grit my teeth and get over it. 

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