Tonight on ABC’s Nightline, they did a report about tourists who pay to chase tornadoes. I grew up in “tornado alley” and today I still live in an area plagued by tornadoes, the article just made my stomach clinch.
I can understand meteorologists chasing tornadoes. I can understand journalists and photographers. But tourists? WHY?
“For the thrill!” one could say, or perhaps even, “Just to witness mother nature.”
I grew up in school having tornado drills, something that baffled my Pacific Northwest-bred husband. Like everyone has fire drills, we would have tornado drills so we would know what to do should that day come that a tornado came straight at our school. My sophomore year of high school, that threat became very real. We were lucky, but I’ll never forget taking cover in the band hall, praying that the threat would pass us without incident.
When I think of tornadoes, though, Jarrell, Texas crosses my mind. So does Greensburg, Kansas. Good Friday 2009 when Murfreesboro, TN got hit — so close to my house — also pops into my head. (I couldn’t help but look up this list of F5 tornadoes.) Tell any of these people directly affected by these natural disasters that tourists want to chase tornadoes just for giggles, and I believe a good percentage of those people would be just as shocked as I am. Shocked and mildly disgusted.
From photos, I know there is a strange beauty to tornadoes. And their power is humbling. They are also something that regularly causes death and destruction. While people run around to chase them — pay money just to see them in this case — there are hundreds of others praying they are spared. Hundreds of others gripped with fear, in no way taking a thrill from it.
I want to believe that the people who are chasing tornadoes are doing so to help the people being affected. Who are trying to learn about these monsters. Who want to be able to predict them more accurately, or who want to find ways to protect people more effectively. Or who want to be there first to lend a hand to the victims. Not who just want to get a rush from it.
Somehow, deep down in my gut and heart, I can’t get behind the idea of people taking a thrill from the same thing that leaves so many in fear and sadness. I can’t wrap my brain around it…
…I don’t want to wrap my brain around it.