Alabama Tornado Diaries

Tornado drills are an entirely different breed of exercise from fire drills. Technically, they’re both helpful in practicing safety strategies in times of disaster, but tornado drills are their own special kind of torture. As a kid in elementary school, we would be startled in class by a looping alarm bell, groan (or cheer if we were taking a test), and file into the hallway. We would then drop down onto our knees, bend forward until our backs were nearly horizontal, and cover our heads with our interlocked hands. In this position – one of the most uncomfortable known to man – we sometimes sat for hours on end, relieved only by spurts of freedom when our teachers let us sit up and stretch. I didn’t understand the worry about tornadoes then. Even though I lived in Alabama, where hurricanes and flash thunderstorms had wreaked considerable devastation, tornadoes didn’t feel so frightening. We had lived through many – there was always damaged property and a few lives lost of those who couldn’t seek sufficient shelter – and we had accepted that we would see many more.

So I was shocked when I saw what the recent tornadoes did to my home state; 236 people may have died and thousands are homeless. The tornadoes came again and, this time, no drill could have helped us prepare.

Photo via the Marshall County Alabama Tornado Data Base


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