We first moved to our little town in central Iowa the first of June, almost three years ago. It wasn't a particularly tumultuous summer, weather-wise, but for some reason, the tornado sirens were going off at least once a week- and I'm talking about outside of the weekly drills, before any smart alecks pounce on that.
It usually occurred during a storm, prompting us to check the radar for twisters, and once even scooping our two sleeping children out of their beds to carry them down to the glorified root cellar we refer to as our basement.
It wasn't always stormy when we heard the familiar wail of the sirens, however, and we were befuddled. It got to the point where we started ignoring the sirens, a dangerous practice.
One day that summer the kids and I were playing in the front yard when our neighbor drove by. She slowed and rolled her window down, yelling, "Hey guys!" over the sirens that were once again blaring.
I yelled back, "Is there a tornado headed our way? I wasn't aware we were in for any severe weather today."
Right about then the sirens wound down, and our kind neighbor was able to explain that those aren't tornado sirens; they're high-wind sirens. They go off any time we have high winds in our area.
Then she asked, "Do you get a lot of wind down in Kansas?"
To my credit, I checked the belly laughs about to come rumbling up out of my mouth, and merely smiled and said, "Yes. Yes, we do." In her defense, I'm pretty positive she's never been to my home state. This may come as a shock to you, but Kansas is long on wheat and cows but short on tourism.
Here's the thing: Kansas is indeed windy.
I remember watching two-year-old Adelaide try to stand up in the driveway at Derek's parents' house, who live out in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas. She kept getting knocked down by the wind, over and over again, before finally giving up and just crawling over to me.
It's the kind of place that sells little wooden dolls with wild, knotted hair and kitschy sayings on their bellies like, "Just Another Windy Day in Kansas."
It's the third-windiest state in the union, behind North Dakota and Texas. The windiest city in the nation is not Chicago, but Dodge City, Kansas.
I can't imagine having a high-wind siren in my hometown; I doubt a day would go by that it wasn't blaring.
Now, to be fair, Iowa also gets its share of wind; it rounds out the top ten windiest states in America, a list comprised exclusively of states that make up a strip down the middle of the continental U.S.
Having grown up in a place where you get blown around a lot, I enjoy a good windy day. I also enjoy wind maps, and I recently stumbled upon a really cool one that shows real-time wind patterns across our country. You'll notice that Kansas is right in the morass of white lines that make up tornado alley. This map also allows you to zoom in and see wind speeds in different areas. Click here to check it out.
A quick disclaimer with that map: I don't know how accurate it is, but it does have a link on there that will take you to a more traditional wind map, which is also pretty neat to check out. Also, it works best if you view it when using Google Chrome as your browser. FYI.
Looking at this map also drives home the reasoning for Derek's preference for golfing anywhere other than Kansas; apparently it becomes to difficult to direct a small ball towards a hole when the wind keeps blowing it off course.
Note: I wrote this post yesterday, before a bunch of tornadoes- some reports state as many as 13- ripped their way through Texas. Our prayers are with everyone effected by this newest rash of twisters.