We live in tornado country. We joke that there is a perpetual tornado watch from March through November. And, if you have a mild winter like we’ve had this year, you might as well just extend it through the remaining three months as well. It’s just a fact of life here.
But, just because tornadoes are a fact of life does not mean that they are commonplace, nor do we remember them lightly.
Fifteen years ago today a massive tornado hit Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I was a junior in college at one of the two universities in that small south Arkansas town. I was watching the weather and hearing the sirens when I heard the weatherman say, “Touchdown in Arkadelphia!” Almost immediately the roaring began. (Yes, it really does sound like a freight train bearing down right on top of you – minus the metallic clanging.) Touchdown wasn’t just in Arkadelphia, it was right outside OBU’s campus in one of the football practice fields. I took cover in the stairwell, but it was over almost before I got there. The EF-5 tornado hit the practice fields, bounced back up, jumping over both universities, and then landed again in downtown to start its mile-wide path of destruction of downtown homes and businesses.
I still praise God it was a Saturday. If it had happened during business hours the loss of life would have been so much greater…
I’ve been through other tornadoes, but none quite like that. The images from Arkadelphia are still the ones that come to mind when I see new images from more recent storms. And I’m glad I don’t forget. I learned a lot that spring, and I’m thankful for what I learned.
But, I’d be perfectly happy to never again be where the big one hits.