Tornado Sirens in the Dark

Here is another weather oriented tale.  This one is from Days Remembered by the way.


One of the things that make living in Texas interesting is the weather, especially the storms that arise to lash us in the spring.  With each passing storm front, you are  given a show full of nature’s fireworks and surprises.  Each performance is different; each has something new to show.  And one night, there was something fresh to see  or hear, I might say.

That early spring night was like many others.  It was humid and cloudy, and the storms were coming towards us.  A strong squall line was tracking in from the west where storms are usually born.  The Weather Service had posted numerous warnings and watches for severe thunderstorms and some tornadoes as well.  I went in and listened to the NOAA Weather Radio to hear the storm reports and new warnings, which inched their way to Tarrant County and Fort Worth.  As my dad once said, “Someone was going to catch some hell that night.” It appeared we were next.

You weren’t there when this was happening; you had a function at school.  I had spoken to you before it started and told you about what was coming from the west.   As the evening wore on, your program ended, and you called to tell me you were on your way home.  You were just in time for the storms to sweep across our part of the world.  And that they did.

Storms are not unusual in North Texas; but sometimes, some of the events that are around them are a bit different, and this was one such night.  Like a scene in some movie, it became calm and still outside.  There was no wind, and the clouds overhead streaked from the southwest at high speed.  In the distance to the west, one could hear the low, rolling growl of thunder sweeping across the rolling prairies and hills to the west.  Sometimes, a sheet of lighting would be seen illuminating the cloud deck above the quickly fleeing scud clouds below.  The calm was the most noticeable; you always heard that if it was calm before a storm, something bad was on its way. A tornado was near, the old timers would tell you.

That old tale was about to become true, it seemed, when I first heard the tornado sirens fire off far to the west.  Usually, you heard the siren in the neighborhood on the top of hill one half mile way, but not this time.  The sounds in the distance were being blown to the threshold of hearing by the wind coming from the west, which had picked up again.  The wind and the siren’s wale made you think that people miles away were in the path of destruction and doom.

The sounds grew louder as another belt of sirens nearer to the house, but still not the ones nearby, were set off by Fort Worth Emergency Preparedness.  The mental image in my mind was that the storm’s edge, or the violent swirl of a large tornado, was inching its way eastward towards us—the sirens being sounded as this angry weather woe approached.

I called you again to tell you this and to see where you were.  You were not far from the house; you could see the storm with its large bolts of lightning very clearly just to the west of I-35W. The rain was not far behind it.  You beat the storm to the house, and the final interesting event took place.  That is, the local siren finally went off.  You could no longer hear the ones in the distance, just the one up the street from the house wailing and accompanied by loud cracks of thunder.  It seemed that the meteorological monster was about to stomp its way to our very door.  The high tide of the storm’s wave was due to strike at any time.

Not much longer after that, you drove up to the house, and the rain started.  You were safely home; and in the end, the storm was not so bad.  Indeed, there was a lot of thunder, lightning, wind, and rain; but no tornadoes were actually seen near us.  The storm was not as severe at our home as it was west of there.  Thus, the sirens were sounded for not it seemed, their cries of warning heralded not the thing they were supposed to advise us about.  But that was okay. No one was hurt, and the show itself was ghostly, fearful, exciting, and  magnificent all at the same time.  The waves of tornado sirens going off and the wave of storms provided another night of free entertainment to those people willing to watch its performance and notice how unique weather can sometimes be even when set on a stage of what is familiar and expected.


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