Tornado !

Its tornado season in tornado alley. I encountered one last weekend – on 27 April 2024. This is springtime in Kansas. The beautiful red bud trees and flowers have come and gone, and the grass makes everything look clean and green.

I am located in Independence, Kansas, a ranching locality on the prairie in the southeast part of the state. Its north of Tulsa and northeast of Oklahoma City which is auspicious. Why? Because tornado alley stretches in a northeast direction from Oklahoma up into Kansas. When Oklahoma City is hit by tornadoes, so is southeast Kansas generally.

Tornado alley in the last weekend of April 2024 was actually a band of thunderstorms that moves and the storms move along the band in a northeast direction. The band didn’t move but the T-storms moved along the band. So, if Independence didn’t get hit by the first storm, another one would be coming along from Oklahoma in an hour or two.

The storms become more intense after about 4 pm. As my Tulsa business partner says, don’t be driving around late in the day. So all we did on that Saturday night was drive two miles to Uncle Jacks – a steakhouse in downtown Independence. We were peering up at the sky anxiously because it was stormy and rain was imminent.

About 20 friends and family settled in at Uncle Jacks to order drinks and wish Mary Ann a happy birthday. We had just finished ordering when a siren went off – a tornado warning. That’s a danger sign, more so than a tornado watch that had been in effect for a few hours. A tornado watch means you are in the system called tornado alley. A tornado warning means cloud rotation or a tornado has been seen, so take cover. This means get down into the basement or the cellar, and a lot of houses and farms and buildings in Kansas and Oklahoma have a storm cellar.

The restaurant made an announcement and over half of the diners went below, I stayed with Mary Ann who finds it difficult to negotiate stairs. I warned her that if a tornado hit our building we would be diving under the table we were sitting at. The next 30 minutes was a tense time. They say when a tornado gets close it sounds like a freight train. A few of our party went outside but it was dark so they couldn’t see one even if one was coming. But they said the temperature dropped 35 F degrees in about 10 minutes.

One guy said that cloud rotation, which can lead to a tornado was seen by radar about 6 miles west of Independence. But it didn’t eventuate. Eventually the siren stopped and the diners climbed up the stairs and drifted back to their steaks and baked potatoes.

The evening was an anticlimax for us, thankfully. But not so for towns within an hour of Independence (see photos). Iola, where I had once played in a pickleball tournament, was flooded out by a vicious T-storm. Fredonia suffered a similar fate.


When we left Uncle Jacks a couple hours after the siren, it was raining and it was a cold rain. We drove back home for dessert, reminded of the intermittent storms of tornado alley. When I looked at the weather forecast next day, it revealed T-storms in four of the next five days

Road washout in Elk County, Kansas. Source: Steve Coester.


Does Albuquerque, where I live, ever get tornadoes? Nope. But we do get earthquakes, not surprising because the city lives in the middle of a rift valley that stretches north-south across most of the state. I have felt a few earthquakes when in my bed, but they have never been severe, mostly magnitude 2 or 3. You only have to worry when magnitudes reach 5, when buildings can be cracked and damaged.

New Mexico has had a few magnitude 5 quakes in the southeast of the state, but ironically these are caused by disposal of produced water from oil wells that have proliferated across this area since the shale oil revolution in 2010. You can read more about them (click here).

Last night, the T-storms reappeared. Kim’s dogs woke us at 2 am, scared by the lighting and thunder. I spent almost an hour sitting on the floor with them stroking them and murmuring “Good dog. Good girl. It’s alright.” Only the chow called Nalah wasn’t afraid, perhaps not surprising as she is Kim’s attack dog. She just stayed off by herself, and slept on. The other two dogs, Nina and BabyGirl now think I’m their best friend.
Speaking of storms, the only seascape that Rembrandt painted was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. Valued at $100 million, it has not been recovered. The original story is told in Luke, chapter 8.

Rembrandt, 1633. Christ in the Storm of the Sea of Galilee. Source: Wikipedia.
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 days ago

Thanks Ian,your account sounds scary. Not for me,… I live in Idaho. I experienced several tornadoes years ago, while on assignment in Wichita Falls Texas. It was very frightening, and I knew then that; I would never want live in a location that was pron to tornado activity. Guess I am a wimp. Be Safe.

10 days ago

Fascinating, Ian! So glad to know Mary Ann is still with us and able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant, even if she wasn’t able to negotiate the stairs!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x