There are no words to describe the horror that the tornadoes wrought upon the people living in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. I'm not sure that words are even necessary.
I don't normally use this blog to post about anything other than chasing, but I felt that this warranted a special post.
I spent all afternoon on Wednesday glued to my computer, iPhone and television. I was watching the weather channel, watching the news, watching chaser cams online, checking radar and storm reports, and text messaging my cousin about what we were both seeing and hearing.
The excitement generated by my armchair chasing when the first tornadoes hit was quickly replaced by dread and terror. As I watched the tornado go through Cullman, I thought "wow, those poor people are going to have some serious damage, but they'll get through it." However, as the storm progressed, as it gained momentum and became more violent, it became clear to me that there were many people who would not get through it.
I began to cringe as I saw the radar getting more and more ominous. I began to cry when I realized that it was passing right over the University of Alabama. I was stunned into silence and gasps as I saw the storm heading right for Birmingham.
Perhaps one of the most gut wrenching moments was when I watched a meteorologist describing the debris falling from the sky 20-30 miles ahead of the actual tornado. He said, "pieces of people's lives are raining from the sky." My heart began to break for those people and their pieces of debris.
I've been unable to tear myself away from both footage of the storms, but also images of the aftermath. It's sobering and devastating.
It's also provided a pretty stern reality check for me. I am a storm chaser. I love the thrill of the chase. I love the rush of seeing a tornado or a bad ass supercell bearing down on me. But I've never had to watch a tornado destroy a city.
I'm left wondering whether hoping for tornadoes is ethical and moral. I'm left wondering how I will react if I witness an event like the one in Alabama. I'm left wondering how I will align the two parts of myself. The part of myself that hopes beyond hope that destruction from tornadoes never affects anyone, and the part of me that hopes to see something as awesome and powerful as a tornado. How they will mesh together. And do I really want to handle it? I'm even left wondering if chasing storms is ethical and moral.
I'm still going to go this year. I wouldn't miss it for the world. But I like to believe I'll think more about how the "hope" for a storm might affect others.