Whoa Toto! Watch out!

Category: What on Earth!?

Found this interesting postcard today...

With a little research...

From the National Weather Service-Indianapolis: Indiana Weather History:

"March 23, 1917- New Albany...45 people were killed and 250 injured by a tornado 1000 feet wide as it moved through the north side of town at 308 mph. 200 to 300 buildings were destroyed and 2500 people were left homeless. A picture and a jar of pickles from a store were found later in Skylight, Kentucky...25 miles away. The sound of the storm was described as a saw mill in low key."

From THAT description, I would say that the sender of the postcard is lucky that only ONE side of the house was destroyed(Viola & Gilbert...they only had 2 good rooms left after this tornado but everyone made it out alive in the family). Yikes!

I spent a few years in Ohio as a young girl (including coming too close to the twister that flattened Xenia in 1974) and A spent some years in Nebraska. We have a healthy respect for tornadoes. They...um...haven't blown THROUGH the city of Chicago ever...right? Right?

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Well, our families have lived in the Chicago area for 3 generations, and I can only remember being scared about 3 times. And each time, there wasn't much damage. I few years ago there was a (small?) tornado that went blowing right through the northwest suburbs through downtown and out into the lake. People were pretty surprised, but I don't recall any damage - it was fast!

The worst tornado around here was in Plainfield, IL, 20+ yrs ago.

I SOOOOOO remember the Plainfield tornado, Lauren. I worked for a company in the Oakbrook Terrace tower at the time. (August, 1990)

If you don't know of the OBTT, it is the tallest building in the Chicago suburbs. Thirty-one stories high and designed by Helmut Jahn. The view of the Chicago skyline right up I-290 is magnificent at night. The whole thing is made of glass. And there is (or was) nothing anywhere NEAR its height (maybe 10 or 12 miles away is the closest tall equally tall building?)

One person I worked with was in the path of the tornado...she was in Plainfield at a dentist appointment across the street from the apartment building that was destroyed. The secretary of our department lost her maid of honor to the that tornado, which was incredibly sad.

Being in Human Resources meant that I had an orange vest hanging behind my door and that I was "on duty" for emergencies. I don't think it was that day, but another day, when we stood and watched a very bad storm approach from the west. We implored the Facilities Manager (who was listening to the radio) to make an announcement to evacuate into the core of the building. She kept delaying... waiting... waiting. Finally, we watched the storm approach, bright flashes on telephone poles as transformers blew...one-by-one...in a line towards the building. The windows were bowing so hard that the blinds were making a perfect sine wave oscillation (yes, a recent graduate from Purdue, I was a tech wonk.) We left her and began herding people into the core of the building and down the stairs. We all just stood in there...hundreds of people from different companies as the storm roared past. It blew out the revolving doors in the lobby.

Weather everywhere is not to be messed with. But prairie weather...with a storm boiling down a flat plain towards you...is pretty darn scary.

I don't know what it is about Chicago that deters tornados...buildings? Heat? Luck so far? Anyone know?

(It can still get nasty, crazy windy though...before OBTT, I worked for the Park Hyatt downtown in the late '80's. We had some wicked windy days there.)

I remember the tornado of April 1967 for several reasons. The brother and sister-in-law of my husband's cousin's wife were killed in an Oak Lawn trailer park. Our neighbor across the street was in Christ Hospital having just given birth and could see things flying through the air from her hospital window. That tornado also took down a favorite ice cream parlor, Melody Lane, that was owned by my mother's cousin, in the Brainard area.

I wonder if it may have had something to do with the lake that we never got tornadoes in Chicago.

When my husband was in grad school at the U of C a decade ago, we lived in an apartment on the ninth floor of an old semi-rehabbed hotel in Hyde Park, facing west. We couldn't see the lake, but that was OK--whenever it stormed, we had a front row seat. We could watch the dark clouds rolling in over the West Side, with thunder and lightning, getting closer and closer, and a veil of rain gradually obscuring everything, and then suddenly, boom! We were right in the middle of it. It was fantastic.

If you ever have the urge to experience the excitement of a severe storm warning again, come down to Champaign-Urbana! I was never a meteorology geek 'til I got here. Now I sit at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and Ed Kieser on WILL-AM and chart the courses of tornadoes on my Illinois gazetteer. It's tornado season now! I'm so psyched!

Caryl--I looked that one up...a seriously frightening tornado.

Tully--You know, I might just take you up on that some time. I have enough of a healthy fear of tornadoes that high winds and lights going out give me a thrill and a chill. I can remember moving to Pittsburgh after Ohio...those south hills never seemed to know tornadoes, but high winds and power outages? Oh yeah. In the summer, I would stand on the front lawn as the wind picked up, close my eyes, smell that pre-storm smell, and count between lightning and thunder claps. I would be praying as hard for the electricity to go out as I am sure the grown-ups were praying for it to stay on.

Did your parents tell you that thunder is the angels bowling in heaven? I believed that one for quite awhile as a tot.

Cities create a "hot spot" around them because buildings, roads, and other paved areas produce and/or retain more heat than than the fields and natural environment (prarie, forest, lake, etc.) They are generally a few (3 degrees F or so, I think) degrees warmer than the surrounding areas which is believed to "deflect" tornadoes - if the city has a large enough hot spot


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