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“We are off to see the wild west show
The elephants and the kangaroos
Never mind the weather
As long as we're together
We're off to see the wild west show.”


I first heard that drinking song at an impromptu party in Antarctica. It was sung by a trio of New Zealanders. But it's not true, is it? You do have to mind the weather.

The terrible tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma last Monday reminded us of that simple fact. You have to mind the weather, especially severe weather. Blizzards, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Actually, I think you will find that Oklahoma folk do mind the weather and are very good at it. A death toll of 24 ain't bad for a devastating storm such as the massive one that ripped through the middle of Moore. The toll would have been smaller except for the bit of bad luck at the school where seven kids drowned.

Schools have snow days where they cancel classes because of the danger. Perhaps they should consider canceling classes on days where there is a high risk of dangerous storms. At the present time, it's a dilemma of whether to shelter children at a school or try to get them and their parents, if you can locate the parents, safe at home when you have only minutes of warning. It's more than just the danger of wind damage, nationaly storms kill more people with road flooding and lightning.

We had plenty of warning that the bad storms would happen, at least a week. The weather forecasters told us what to expect. We were waiting for it. And watching. In Oklahoma, storm watching is an armchair spectator sport. All the tv stations have the latest radar and other gadgets that they are anxious to demonstrate and to talk about. They have their storm chasers deployed all around with video cameras ready to catch every nuance of the cloud formations. The news helicopters hover in the air ready to zoom to the latest sighting. Oklahoma tornadoes are tracked with radar, video, and 3-d analytics from before they start to after they finish.

So we knew the bad was coming, we just didn't know where or when or how bad. This time there were three days of storms, with tornadoes the first two. A glancing blow hit Shawnee the first day and then the middle of Moore was scraped, scoured, and destroyed the next day. I don't have the total tally of tornadoes across the state. The same day as the Moore big one, there were a dozen garden-variety ones in northeastern Oklahoma where I live.

Moore is two hours distant and, except for the tv reports, I'm detached from the drama. I went to school with one of the ladies who died, but hadn't seen her for over fifty years. One memory still reverberates in my mind; that of teen anguish. A young mother we know received final goodby texts from her teens as they crouched in a darkened school hallway convinced that their end was imminent. They all survived. So did their house.
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