Yes, we were chasing the storm that hit Joplin, MO. We veered off of it a few miles from Jopin when any tornado that developed would be rain wrapped and very dangerous to chase. The storm was a beast and kept evolving and expanding. The beast that hit Joplin ate 3 more cells as it grew. We have seen from the field that cell mergers appear to contribute to tornadogenesis, and Ian has done a bit of research and found some articles on this topic.
We were sitting on top of a hill watching beautiful storm structure when we turned on the radio and learned about what happened to Joplin. Speechless, with tears in our eyes, we could only say our prayers and look in awe at the power of mother nature. We talked about whether we could help in any way but none of us is a qualified first responder and we knew that the chasers in our community who are would respond generously, as they did.
We carried on the chase with mixed emotions, knowing that we couldn’t change what mother nature brings to us. Many ask why did this happen and why are there more deaths this year? It’s an active year – La Nina is one reason. And, for all of the unpopulated and sparsely populated land in tornado alley (and what they have now coined dixie alley), storms and tornadoes don’t determine their paths by whether structures and people are in front of them. It’s probability. The vast majority of the time, tornadoes hit noting but fields and many go unreported unless someone happens to see it. Sometimes, it hits a town. Like in Alabama, Joplin was under a tornado warning for quite some time. In this end of the world, there is a bit of a “it won’t happen here” mentality, which we hear all the time.
Yesterday, while watching storms develop on a dirt road and looking at some holes in the ground (armadillo dens?), an elderly man stopped to check that we were ok. I told him that we were watching the storms and he said, “You know what I do when those bad storms come? I go to bed and say my prayers.”
Many people don’t have tornado shelters. A tornado as strong as the one that hit Joplin requires a basement or a reinforced storm shelter to be really safe. Most important – it requires that someone actually be in one of these. A few years back, we met a woman who showed us her storm shelter. It was filled with junk. She was using it as either as extra storage or a junk bin. We were watching a storm that could produce a tornado right where she was. I hope that she decided to clean out here shelter.
We went on to see a beautiful tornado just on the other side of a lake in Bernice, OK and a beautiful sunset.