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It’s Just a Tornado

Our apartment in New Orleans overlooks the Mississippi River. At least that’s the way I remember it. For the last two days, the fog has been so heavy we might as well have been in 19th century London. That’s been fun, the rolling patches of fog, the slightly eerie sensation of driving through a deserted Quarter, a lone tourist hurrying across the street. Today, I learned the fog is a harbinger. We don’t have fog in Memphis, but I’m familiar with the situation: the weather turns warm, the dreaded cold front blows in, tornado warnings issue.

Last August, when we “sheltered in place” for Hurricane Isaac, I decided a hurricane wasn’t as bad as a tornado. With a hurricane, you get a lengthy warning. For those with the ability to leave, a choice to stay—we had children and grandchildren in the city who weren’t leaving—is just that: a choice. A tornado runs up on you before you know it.

My tornado warning arrived this morning courtesy of They send emails when the weather sours. Now, as the view from my window worsens, I’m here alone. I watch out the window.

The rain arrives so thickly it’s as if someone erected a white screen—no sense of something falling at all. After a bit, it occurs to me that I might have to evacuate. I rise from the sofa to find some shoes. The dog follows me everywhere I go. I don’t know if New Orleans has tornado sirens, or if I could hear them from inside this ancient rice mill that houses our apartment. With the windows shut against the rain, it is very quiet.

When I return to the living room, the white screen has lifted. I can see the river. The rain has diminished to a sprinkle. Lightening strikes repeatedly. In Memphis, the end of rain is good, but lightening erupts before the rain. I don’t know anything about this weather pattern. I research online for the national weather channel. The Southeastern Louisiana tornado warning is in place for another hour and a half, but students are walking in and out of NOCCA, the creative arts high school across the parking lot. Surely if danger existed they’d be hunkered beneath their desks, protective arms wrapped around their heads.

I’ve lived through three hurricanes. I’ve never seen a tornado. I don’t want to see a tornado. Soon, the tornado warning will lift, hopefully with my non-tornado-sighting record intact.

here’s to creative synthesis  . . .

hurricane, new orleans, tornado, weather

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