Sunday, January 12, 2014

Where Wouldn't You Live?

We had our first big weather event since moving to Virginia. We were on tornado watch all day yesterday and last night hub's phone started making a siren sound: tornado warning.*

We corralled the animals, grabbed some snacks and blankets, and ran down to our garage. Living in an area that floods, we don't have tornado shelters (they would be swimming pools for most of the winter), but since the house sits on a four-foot raised foundation, the garage is the only thing that's ground level. We figured that was good enough.

We sat in the car with the radio on giving constant updates. The wind lashed the garage door til it bent and groaned. Our parrot freaked out a little. The most fraidy-cat of all of us, the guinea pig, was actually the most excited; being a guinea pig, she doesn't have enough of a brain to know that a tornado is dangerous, and therefore she wasn't scared at all. Penny was in fact rather interested in all the fascinating smells the wind was bringing into the garage.

After 25 minutes, the wind had died and the warning was over, so we trooped back into the house and continued with our episode of Babylon 5. Look at us, too cool for school, surviving our first tornado. This California girl is so proud to have lived through a not-really-tornado and doing everything by the book. Give me a pat on the head and a cookie.

Judging from facebook, the damage was minimal: play sets and trees blown over and some roofs damaged, but no one hurt. I don't remember what the winds got up to, but the forecast had said 25-30 mph. [Update: We had 3 EF-0 tornadoes come through our area, 70-75 mph winds, no major emergencies.]

We don't get anything like this in California. I remember during college we got funnel clouds once and we were ecstatic. We thought we were so cool that a "tornado" (so pathetic as to be called an 'EF-0') had actually flown over us. I know all you local East-Coasters are laughing at us right now. That's right, you are superior to us. Your experience vastly exceeds ours where tornadoes, hurricanes, nor'easters, tropical storms, and floods are involved. You know how to survive and not freak out.

Until it comes to earthquakes. Californians, I warn you, do not bring up earthquakes on this coast. There was a once-in-a-lifetime earthquake event a few years ago that people are still talking about. To East-Coasters, it's a point of pride to say, "I was 500 miles away and still felt it!" Now it's Californians' turn to shake our heads.

I have only once in my life actually felt an earthquake, even when everyone else says, "Woah, feel that one?" I guess because I grew up in Southern Cal, my body just got used to it and I can't feel them at all. The only reason I know one has passed is because the dishes rattle and any hanging lamps sway back and forth.

Different parts of the U.S. have very different natural disasters. Hurricanes and other large storm cells hit this side of the country and earthquakes hit the other. Snowstorms cover the northern states. Tornadoes usually run around in the southern middle portions.

A facebook friend asked my husband which one he would prefer: tornado or earthquake? Earthquake for sure. You hunker down and deal with it, and it's over in seconds. Cali has strict building codes so that most buildings are safe now (although don't get me started on all the Bay Area towns that are built on silt and mud...you wanna know what wave propagation is, go live there). As far as natural disasters go, Cali really is the place to live.

There are some areas of the U.S. that I'm really not sure why anyone's living there. If there are five-plus feet of snow and blizzards you can't see through, how are you supposed to get to work for months on end? Why would you want to live somewhere that gets flooded every fall? Why would you move back to a town that was destroyed by a hurricane?

Because it's home. The only reason that makes sense is the same one our ancestors stubbornly came here and settled in the first place: "This land is my land." We may not have any more undiscovered country and the Western Frontier may full up with people, but the stubborn spirit of the pioneers lives on in us as we refuse to move from our dangerous places, simply because they're ours.

I may want to say, "Go live somewhere else already. The weather has beaten you." But the truth is, I just don't understand. It's not my home. But if you put me in the same situation--if my home did get leveled with an earthquake--I would go rebuild it too.

Sure, there are bears or snakes or wolves or mountain lions or crocodiles or what-have-yous...but someone moved here a hundred years ago, so we're staying. They claimed it, and we're not weaker than our ancestors. So out of sheer darn stubbornness, we're staying. It's home now. We won't leave, come rain or snow or hail or wind...not leaving. Never.

Word count: 863.

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* I cannot sing the praises of smartphones enough for this. Hubs has two weather apps (each one good for different things) that both sent up notifications about the tornado warning. But even without those, Google warned him itself with the loud warning siren that you can't ignore or miss. Good old Android is always looking out for us. I still don't want a smartphone for myself, but it sure is nice that everyone else has them!