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‘The Suck Zone’

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Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 3:39 pm

"It's the point basically when the twister... sucks you up. That's not the technical term for it, obviously."

This is how Dustin Davis, (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), described the swirling funnel clouds that wreaked havoc throughout the plains of the Midwest, in the movie Twister.

While it is not frequent to see cows flailing through the air during storms, tornadoes are a very real part of living in the center of the country and at times, are quite frigthning.

When I went home for Christmas break, I was reminded what it is like to have to deal with weather events that can leave you stuck in the house, eyes glued to the TV, watching dopplar radar predictions drift across the screen.

As a child, I remember several times getting dragged out of my bed in the middle of the night (because I can sleep through anything, including tornado sirens) and heading down to the basement stairs with a couple of flashlights and a radio. For any native Californians, basements are concrete rooms underground that usually are damp, dark and filled with stored family heirlooms.

We would huddle for about 10 or 15 mintues until we knew the storm had passed and then head back upstairs and have a nice relieved, sleep.

My vacation back home went from snow on Christmas Eve to 60 degree tornado weather in less than a week.

We knew that some storms were coming on New Years Eve after tornadoes struck in Arkansas which unfortunately killed eight people, so I hurried down to my old piano teacher's house for a visit before the weather turned.

About a half hour into catching up, the sirens started going off and we checked the weather and decided to keep gabbing. But this was a fast moving storm, and within 15 minutes the sirens were going off again and I decided to head home.

It's hard to describe what it feels like before a storm where a tornado is possible. The air outside was warm, yet there was an eery light breeze. Birds are quiet. Everything is kind of a weirdly bright hue.

As I made it home, we watched on the weather and saw the storms pass by a bit to the south. Turns out, a tornado touched down about three miles from my house in Sunset Hills.

We had to go exchange a cell phone at the Sprint store in Sunset Hills, and took a quick peek at the damage, which included overturned cars and uprooted trees.

The tornado destroyed nine homes and one business but dozens of others had damage. There were stories of a 78-year-old man diving under a tractor, and a family that hid in a basement as the foundation of their home was picked up and carried away. Everyone said the tornado made a loud, roaring sound that you could hear, even if you couldn't see it.

Growing up in Missouri, I never viewed tornados as especially scary, probably because we do have sirens as a warning when one is coming. But after seeing the utter devastation from this past one, I will probably look at them a bit differently. Also, seeing it through the California lens, it is crazy to think your house can be destroyed in a matter of seconds by swirling air. It's the Midwests equivalent of earthquakes, but at least we have some warning before a twister comes.

So what are your stories about weather damage? Ever been stuck in a tornado, earthquake, hail storm or snow storm? Tsunami? Volcano? Feel free to drop me a comment or e-mail me at