There's an old southern saying that goes, "Don't like the weather? Just hang around a few minutes. It'll change."
Anyone who's spent much time in Alabama can relate to that one. It's not uncommon to wake up to a blue sky filled with brilliant sunshine and white puffy clouds, then go to bed that evening with the wind and rain beating against your window. Alabama weather is about as predictable as watching The Jerry Springer Show. You know something's going to happen, you're just not sure what it will be.
Given the unpredictability of Alabama weather, I sometimes wonder why television stations bother employing weathermen at all. Oh sure, they razzle-dazzle us with their color radars and storm trackers and incoherent weather-speak, and when the weather is popping we can count on them to keep us well-informed, but on an average day you could get just as accurate a forecast by calling the Psychic Hotline.
I've got an eighty-year-old aunt who predicts the weather with what she calls her "magic bunion." To be honest, the magic bunion is not as easy to look at as color radar (it's actually pretty disgusting), but it's usually right on the money when it comes to predicting rain or drought (it throbs when it's going to rain and itches when it's not). Okay, it's not a perfect science, but the magic bunion would never interrupt your favorite show just to tell you it's raining in Tokyo, as many TV weathermen would.
Most television stations seem to think that, when it comes to predicting the weather, a magic bunion just isn't enough. They all have a meteorologist or two on staff, though they rarely speak of meteors, and enough weather gizmos and gadgets to make Mr. Wizard green with Doppler envy. Some stations have taken things to the next level by reporting the weather from outside of all places. It makes sense, I guess, since that's where the majority of weather occurs. And it's sure to cut down on the number of missed forecasts since all they have to do is look up. It's hard to predict sunshine when rain is falling on your head.
While I make light of TV weathermen and their toys, I do take the weather very seriously. North Alabama is my home. It's also the place my grampa often called, "the ass end of tornado alley." In modern weather-speak, that means that North Alabama is historically prone to weather patterns that could (and often do) spawn dangerous storms and tornadoes. Most North Alabamians have either lived through such a storm themselves or know someone who has.
April 7, 1974: a night when dozens of tornadoes ripped through North Alabama, causing much damage and loss of life. I remember sitting on the back porch of my Limestone County home with my old man, watching a spindly tornado pass by just a few miles to the north. What were we doing outside in such a storm, propped up on milk crates like two yokels waiting on a bus to take them to the big city? You'd have to know my old man to appreciate the answer to that one. You see, he was one of those men who would rather stand outside and face a storm head-on than get caught hiding from it in a bathtub. At the time, I thought it was pretty cool, sitting out there with him in the rain, watching the butts of his cigarettes float off the edge of the porch. It was the ultimate father and son bonding ritual: two brave souls valiantly facing Mother Nature and all that. Looking back now, I can see that we were not heroes. We were just a couple of idiots who were too stupid to be scared.
Last week, Alabama was faced once again with an onslaught of killer storms much like those that hit in 1974. During the storm that passed over my house, it rained harder than I've ever seen it rain before. Powerful gusts of wind blew my plastic porch furniture down the street and the night sky was alive with heavy thunder and brilliant flashes of lightning. My TV weather buddies told me that a severe thunderstorm was headed my way and they encouraged me to seek shelter. Hmm, maybe they weren't such bad guys to have around, after all.
My wife and daughters were snugly bedded down in the bathtub. Heavy blankets, candles, a battery-powered radio, a box of Ding-Dongs and a jug of Kool Ade were close by. My wife, in her infinite wisdom, wanted to be prepared for a power outage or a sudden case of the munchies.
And where was I during this potentially deadly storm? For the most part, I was sitting on the toilet singing Barney songs with my girls. But there was a moment when I stepped out onto the front porch to face the oncoming unknown. I stared up into the black sky and waited for a flash of lightning to illuminate the clouds, to reveal what was hiding up there. After a minute, I decided there was nothing to see. I turned to go inside, but not before stealing one last look at the storm.
I briefly thought of my old man.
I wondered if he was doing the same.
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Tim Knox, Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, Radio Host
Founder, The Insiders Club, Giving You The Power To Start Your Business Today
Bestselling Author of: "Everything I Know About Business I Learned From My Mama"
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