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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Talk Thursday: Why on Earth Does Anyone Live There?

I'm just now getting a look at Wednesday's paper. The headline (in 46 points, no less): "FAST AND FIERCE: Dozen twisters terrorize area. Twin supercells hit at same time. Rampant damage, but no deaths." They almost sound disappointed. I guess supercells aren't very exciting unless they kill hundreds of people. I gotta say they were exciting enough. I got rousted from my desk--twice--and herded down to the basement of our building, where I got to hang with my colleagues in an underground conference room for--well, some period of time; I didn't have my cell phone (note to self: A must during tornado warnings) so I really didn't know how long. (I'm glad I wasn't Joan. She got hauled out of her underground office--I guess it wasn't underground-y enough--and out into the parking garage, where she spent about three hours sitting in her car with two colleagues. She had her cell phone, though.) The day was pretty much shot at that point. Most of the people I needed to talk to weren't answering their phones, and the sirens kept going off and scaring the crap out of everybody.

For the record, Dallas does not have days like this very often. Yes, we have tornadoes, and somebody in the weather biz could probably tell you how many and when. But despite our dubious distinction of hanging around at the southernmost corner of Tornado Alley, it's maybe two or three times a year at best that this sort of thing happens, and usually it's a tornado watch, not a tornado warning. Yes, two or three times a year is plenty. I don't live in Oklahoma City for a good reason. Several good reasons, actually. But we don't walk around in terror of tornadoes, the same way we didn't freak out over earthquakes when we lived in Southern Cal, or heat index warnings when we lived in Phoenix, Arizona. (Actually, Joan never lived in Phoenix. As she says, "It's too effing hot." But she did live in Florida, where there are hurricanes, and grew up tracking tropical storms across the Gulf on little maps.) For a really fun night with tornadoes howling all around, see this post.

Inevitably, the question must arise among non-Dallasites who have never done a tornado warning: Why on earth does anyone live there? Yes, good question. If we'd had it to do over again we'd have built Dallas about four hours south of here, partially on a barrier island and partially on the mainland, connected by a causeway and ringed with protective hurricane walls. Oh, wait, then we'd be Galveston. Seriously, though. If you look at Tornado Alley, you'll see that, on balance, not a lot of people live there. It's pretty rural country, with small towns and only the occasional city (Hi, Tulsa! Hi, OKC! Hey, how's it going, Minneapolis?) So maybe we actually thought this thing through. Where Tornadoes, Build Only Farms.

But that doesn't explain Southern Cal and San Francisco: Where Earthquakes, Build Only Really Expensive High Rises And Million-Dollar Homes? I lived in California for 11 years and we had many, many earthquakes during my tenure, including the big Northridge quake of 1994. That sucker woke me up. Briefly. I also spent a large-ish chunk of my formative years in Salt Lake City, which is earthquake country, and grew up doing earthquake drills, hiding under desks, standing in doorways (which has since been discredited; you're better off under something solid, like a heavy table). Yet every time the shaking started, I did the same thing; nothing. I sat there, or stood there, looked around and thought, "Hm. We must be having an earthquake." By the time that thought crawled slowly through my head, the shaking would have stopped. If we'd ever had a really big one, I'd have been flattened.

So the question inevitably arises, for people who don't live in Southern Cal and would never think about moving there; Why on earth does anyone live there? Same question Southern Californians ask when they read about nasty winter storms dumping feet of snow on Chicago. Also the same question Chicagoans ask about Floridians tracking Hurricane Furious across the Atlantic to see if it'll land on their doorsteps. And probably the same question Floridians ask about Dallasites, as we dive into our bathtubs and haul mattresses in after us. Everyone thinks their natural disasters are far superior to other, more foreign natural disasters in distant, less civilized states. Which is another way to say, you just get used to it.

I live in Dallas because my significant sweetie got a job in Dallas. (The alternative was almost Lubbock. Dodged a bullet there.) Before that, I lived in Southern Cal, for much the same reason (different sweetie, different job; she dumped me for a bimbo receptionist, oh well, life goes on.) My parents moved from Arizona to Salt Lake City because they missed their friends. My aunt and uncle are selling their place in the north and moving to Scottsdale, Arizona because it's too much work to keep up two houses. People move to certain towns for all kinds of reasons, but rarely does the type of natural disaster make the list. That's just something that comes with the package.

Anyway, I like tornadoes. They're big and solemn and, if you're 30 miles away and relatively safe, neat to watch. Not that I've ever actually seen one, of course. Every time one comes along, I'm usually in a basement or a bathroom or some other dank windowless abode, hoping it misses my house. Well, the house has been there since 1958; it's probably okay. And if not, we need a new roof. But that's a whole 'nother blog post.


Cele said...

Okay really, heat, tornados, and nasty ass poisonous snakes. I'll take my buckets of rain, flooding, and earthquakes. Oh fun and joy, but you are right, I'll take my natural disaster over yours anyday.

Jen said...

Hey, don't forget your big volcano about to blow at any second (Mt. Hood?)