Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Like a lot of people who don't have to worry about severe weather, I've always wanted to see a tornado. There was stunning video of a tornado in western Oklahoma last week, filmed from a newscopter about two miles away. It captured the tornado forming, , the dust whirling into the vortex, & the twister blasting apart a pig farm, debris flying & swirling (couldn't see the poor pigs). It was a classic tornado. Among the best film I've seen of a tornado. It's somewhere on CNN for May 23, here's a still from right after it touched down. It got bigger fast. Most are taken from ground level, the storms obscured by clouds, rain & dust, & brief because the person filming it has to hide. The copter pilot, very experienced at his work, said that so many people chase tornadoes now that there's often heavy traffic headed toward the storm. Although his job is warn people in the storm's path, he's also telling them where to find it. He has to concentrate on keeping a safe distance; he said he can feel the copter being pulled toward storms.

On Sunday, an EF5 tornado, the strongest designation, completely leveled half of Parkersburg Iowa. Shredded the place. It's amazing only 7 people were killed. A tornado siren was installed in that part of the town only ten days ago.

I missed my chance to see a tornado - at least the underside - in Rahway a few years ago. I happened to be at work in Woodbridge, about five miles away, & I was outside on my break watching tremendous thunderstorms pass to the north. When I drove home shortly after six pm, I had to pass through a police checkpoint at the edge of downtown.* Power was out. One of those storm cells dropped an FI tornado in Rahway River Park. It skipped through the park, jumped several streets & came down Central Ave., which was right next to my apartment building. It lifted off the ground & sheered the tops off tree after tree, big trees, old trees. It must have been terrifying. I walked around for an hour. There wasn't much serious property damage except where limbs had fallen on roofs & cars. But some of the old-timers were stunned, broken-hearted almost, at the carnage to the trees, which couldn't bend to the sudden increase in wind. The National Weather Service confirmed it was tornado. It was about the mildest level of possible tornado. I got a lot respect for tornadoes that day. But I was still disappointed I wasn't there, & I can't say if I would have been cowering in the bathroom or standing outside like a crazy person screaming "woo hoo!" I've had both reactions to scary weather. I did give up my fantasy of chasing storms across the prairie states.

*The checkpoints remained all night, & a driving curfew was in effect. But I had a tremendous craving for Dutch Maid donuts, & challenged myself to find an open route to the Quik Chek. I did, & at midnight the convenience store & Dunkin' Donuts next to it were crowded with people also compelled to evade the blockades. I know now the Rahway police left those few paths open deliberately, they simply didn't have personnel to seal off a large section of the town. Fallen trees pretty much did the job for them


Bob, was your Rahway tornadic experience on Labor Day about 10 years ago? IIRC, Mrs. Contrarian and I were driving to my parents' house from Jersey City and as we approached E. Scott Ave. by Merck, the sky turned dark green and before all hell broke loose. I saw a few trees along E. Scott uprooted before my eyes, so we pulled my little Toyota into the Merck parking lot so no tree would fall on it. The wind rocked our car back and forth and small hail dinged off of the roof. It took us an additional 30 minutes just to drive 1.5 miles across town following the storm because so many trees and downed electrical wires were blocking the roads.
That was it.
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