Based on the portion of sky that I could see outside my office window, I was pretty sure the siren that sounded yesterday afternoon was a tornado warning. That conclusion was immediately confirmed by an alert on my cell phone. I promptly locked my computer screen and walked out of my office. Along with twenty-five or so other employees, I headed to the basement of Galle-Johnson.
Naturally, a few of the Kansas natives had to head outside for their own assessment so they could make an informed decision about the advisability of taking time away from their duties in the interest of personal safety. I was willing to go along with the National Weather Service and their interpretations of Doppler Radar and weather modeling.
And so we spent a little over half an hour in the basement, checking on family and weather status via cell phones and chatting with one another. There was never any claim of a sighted tornado so far as I know, only the indications of wind rotation and other factors that suggested that a tornado could develop within the storm that was moving through our area at around forty miles an hour.
It’s a sort of Kansas Roulette that some people prefer to play, waiting until there’s a confirmed funnel cloud or even a definite tornado on the ground before they will take cover. After all, tornadoes tend to be highly localized; you can live two miles away from a powerful specimen and only witness moderate wind damage.
Some folks follow a similar pattern in other settings. Like people of questionable judgment poking sticks at a tiger in a cage, they stay in or near a situation that can clearly develop into something with devastating results. It might be an inordinate relationship, something that verges on illegal or dangerous or both. It could be a hiking, bouldering or rock climbing event that involves wet rock or a sandy surface. It could be a group of friends thinking about robbing a liquor store or setting a barn on fire. Instead of exercising due caution and moving away, some folks continue to press the edge and court disaster.
Sometimes we forget or ignore the fact that that funnel clouds develop at certain places, that tornados touch down at specific points. These points and places are not always where we expected. They are sometimes quite immediate and do not offer us enough time to move to a safe place. By the time the situation reveals itself to be more dangerous than we realized, we are already swallowed by it.
Even though history, calculus and insurance underwriters may indicate that the chances are in our favor, sometimes the chips we have to play are just too precious. No matter how many times we’ve made it out before and how good we think the odds are, when a tornado takes a seat at the table, the house never wins.