You've got Tornados

October 16, 1999

I can't tell you how many people who live in an earthquake zone have said that very line to me, time and time again.


Let me tell you about tornados. Generally speaking, if you have half a brain, you can see that there is a possibility of one showing up at your doorstep. If it is during the day, the sky gets dark; thunder and lightning happen all around, and sooner or later, a tornado might appear. 

You can buy a radio that will wake you in the night, should one threaten.

Ok, yes they blow over mobile homes, but so do Hurricanes. Ever hear of the one called Andrew?

But guess what, Tornados don't knock down skyscrapers, drop bridges into the bay, level multi deck freeways, and drop in on you in the middle of a clear blue sky.

I'll tell you about an earthquake, for those who have not had the pleasure. 

I was in a little one, 5.5 on the scale, but I was very close to the epicenter, which happened to be in Pomona, California. Spouse, good friend and I had just finished a climb of MT. Whitney, and was sleeping in a little hotel near LAX waiting for the morning flight back to "tornado land." 

Now me, being a very sound sleeper, am used to being shaken awake by the spouse, in a rousing fashion. This night, she was yelling, and the bed was shaking. I woke with no start, since this is the way one wakes the dead.

Slight problem...

She was not touching me...and the bed was dancing

The best I can describe it: put a 300 LB football player on the bed, have him do jumping jacks... and have him start at 3am or so. 

The first time this happens to you, a certain confidence in the reality of life is shaken to the core.  At that time, the ground had never moved for me in 35plus years. This night it shook. The evening had been unseasonably warm, it was October 17 or 18 or thereabouts.... the sky was clear, and the earth revolted.

There is something really frightening about having the ground shake, and hearing its massive rumble.

For me, I don't want to go back there, not to live. Later we read about what would/could happen in fault zones should the "big one" hit. The thought of being separated from kids at school, spouse at home, and a city crippled without water, telephone, gas or electric, stretches my imagination to the

No thanks.

Yes I live where there are tornados, and after 48 years, still have not seen one. I wouldn't mind watching from a distance, but you can chase a tornado, you can't chase the ground when it turns to Jell-O. 

No Doppler radar warnings, no Sky Cam, no Accuweather forecast, just JUMPIN JACK FLASH, and maybe you are dead.

And maybe not.

I'll take the tornado, you keep the quake.