Every Monday morning at 10:00 in Hesston we hear one of the most dreaded sounds known to man...the eerie cry of tornado sirens. Hesston is a small town, which means that the sirens are placed fairly close together, creating quite a loud noise. While some people might be bothered by this, I'm not. If a giant vacuum from the sky is approaching my town at 2:00 in the morning, I want something loud enough to wake me up.
Moving to Kansas at the end of June this year, reminded me once again of my years growing up in the Big WA (Warr Acres, Oklahoma). Every Spring, at the end of March going to the middle of June, and then again briefly in October, the central plains of the United States earn their nickname as "Tornado Alley." Of course, technically, I have always lived in Tornado Alley, even after leaving the Big WA for college in Omaha, NE. Tornado Alley is supposed to encompass the Northern Plains and even part of the Mississippi Valley.
And even though all of these states have tornadoes every year, the fact remains that no area of the country grows storms like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I have lived in all three of these states and I can say that we grow our tornadoes real proud. They're not just the little white ropes that come out of the sky and create a pretty back-drop for a field of golden wheat...although we have plenty of those too. In KS, OK, and TX those kinds of tornadoes are "garden variety"...normal...almost boring for the people who live there.
I'm talking about the tornadoes that make the national, and even international, news. In these three states we grow huge, black and green thunderstorms with tornadoes so evil looking you might think that half of the stuff mentioned in the book of Revelation is coming true right in front of you.
An F-5 tornado that came through my town of Hesston on March 13 of 1990. The house Ellen and I live in got a new roof as a result of this one. Fortunately no one in Hesston was killed, although this tornado did kill two people in other towns.
This F-5 tornado entered Moore, Okla. on May 3rd, 1999. It killed 44 people and destroyed over 6,000 homes. It has the record for recorded wind speeds in a tornado at over 320 mph.
This is a nighttime shot of the EF-5 (F-4, on the old scale) tornado that entered Greensburg, KS on May 4th of 2007. It killed 10 people and destroyed the entire town. The width of this tornado was near 2 miles. Ellen and I bought our house in KS the weekend this tornado occurred, making us ask, "What in the heck are we doing?"
These storms and others (including the huge hail storms we can get) are a reminder of how little control we have. This has been an unexpected difficulty for me, to be honest, in moving to Kansas. I think part of it has to do with living in the little town of Hesston (about 3000 people). I just feel so exposed, all of a sudden, to the power of the weather. Living in a large city gives you a sense of security, although I think it is a false one. But when I can walk three blocks to the west or five blocks to the south and be outside of town in a field, I am confronted with the fact that there is not very much between me and the elements.
Although I grew up around tornadoes my whole life, for some reason I had forgotten how scary just the thought of them can be. I have learned that my only solace comes from knowing that God is in control of these storms and my future. These storms remind me of God's awesome power. But God's awesome love towards me also means that He will use any blessing and any disaster to further His good purpose for my life.
This helps me sleep at night.
Until the sirens go off. Then I scream like a little girl, hide in my basement, and pray even more fervently.