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Patty Leon: Tornadoes blow!
Patty Leon new

My thoughts and prayers go out to the folks in Mayfield and Bowling Green Kentucky, Edwardsville, Illinois and all the other communities recently decimated by tornadoes born from a Winter Storm called Atticus.

I’m saddened to hear about the significant loss of life. Homes and materials things can always be replaced but not losing a loved-one, friend, neighbor or pet. I’ll continue to pray for miracles as the clearing of debris moves forward. May a lost pet be reunited with its owner. May a relative be found safely.

I can only imagine the horror these folks went through. Some getting only a few minutes to run for cover. Others likely already asleep as the tornado ripped through Graves County at 9:27 p.m. Central Time.

This was another case of a perfect storm. A late season tornado fueled by “warmer than normal” temperatures and being pushed forward by a winter storm with colder drier air creating what scientists call, “atmospheric instability.”

Scientists are analyzing data which could show that one of the likely several (right now they think 4-5) tornadoes that hit this past Saturday traveled more than 200 miles and lasted for hours. If true, it would be a new U.S. record. What is still unclear to scientists, is whether climate change played a factor and if so, what could we expect in the future. One of the main reasons I left Miami was to escape from the yearly hurricanes (which kept driving up the cost of living in that state).

While living in Georgia, we did get a couple of close calls from hurricanes but way less frequent than when I lived in Miami. But while living in Georgia I became aware of just how unpredictable and much more terrifying tornadoes were. And that’s just from experiencing a few smaller “micro-bursts,” that have hit close by. I remember one tornado that ripped through Darien in 2008.

This past Saturday, we were under a tornado watch in Chattanooga.

While watching storm coverage on the Weather Channel meteorologists said they’ve noticed a pattern in the past few years. Tornado alley is shifting to the east.

Typically, when you hear tornado alley you think of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

But expert meteorologist Dr. Victor Gensini and other experts in his field agree, tornado alley is shifting more to the south and southeast to include to the Mississippi River and Ohio River Valley and states like Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Well poop!

I mean, with hurricanes at least you have time to prepare. Weeks, days and hours of time to board up your home, get your belongings in order and evacuate if you need or want to. Not so with tornadoes. You’d be lucky if you got a few minutes of warning sirens, although the warning systems are much improved from years ago.

A tornado has happened in my neighborhood. On April 12, 2020, a tornado tracked from Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and moved into the East Brainerd area of Chattanooga. The tornado weakened as it moved through Collegedale and unincorporated parts of Hamilton County. East Brainerd is only nine miles from my house!

And it happened overnight while most people were asleep.

The mere thought of trying to get my 93-yearold mother and all my pets down the steep basement stairs in the dead of night after losing power is terrifying. Jeepers, writing this just gave me goosebumps. The timing of this recent tornado is just terrible, just two weeks prior to Christmas. But one thing severe thunder storms, hurricanes and tornadoes have taught me – people are resilient!

And during times like these people and community come together.

There is no left, right, black, white or anything in between.

I watched the video of the woman, who along with her co-workers, were trapped in the candle factory warehouse that was flattened. She live-streamed the experience while telling her co-workers to remain calm and that everything was going to be okay.

She and her co-workers were found alive twohours later. She even made me laugh when she said, “I hope they know I quit.” She was just one of several people trying to make the best of a tragic moment in her life and likely saved her friends. I watched as people came together in song and prayer in front of their demolished church building, and worshipped on Sunday. I heard about the man who traveled with his mobile grill and truck full of food to Mayfield where he set up his table and fed the community.

I saw neighbors helping their neighbor salvage what they could. It shouldn’t take a disaster for us to be kind and helpful to each other. We should be doing good deeds every day.

Patty Leon is senior editor of the Courier.

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