The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

March 30, 2013

Jim Bailey: It’s the season to watch out for tornadoes

Ah, spring. The flowers start to poke through the newly thawed ground. The rains replace the threat of snow (or not). The temperatures slowly moderate and younger people rush the season as they haul out their short-sleeved and short-legged garb. And the threat of tornadoes hovers over Indiana and other parts of the Midwest and South.

The history of storms being what they are, I’ll accept the threat of tornadoes any day over the East Coast’s periodic battening down against hurricanes, low-lying coastal areas and major river areas girding for flooding and the constant West Coast vigilance over earthquakes.

Tornadoes wreak extreme havoc, of course. But their paths of devastation are very limited, and the chances of being swept away by a twister from any one spot aren’t much worse than being struck by lightning.

My memory records two tornadoes in the Anderson area over a six-decade stretch. Back in 1953, on a Palm Sunday I believe, one touched down on the west side of Anderson. It traveled about two or three blocks and destroyed a few homes. Thankfully and miraculously, no one was killed.

Then came that dark day when I returned to The Herald Bulletin from lunch and was immediately ushered into the sub-basement where once the huge presses were situated. After a few seemingly uneventful minutes the all clear was given. But it turned out not to be uneventful for residents of Edgewood, who saw twisters roar through part of Anderson’s western suburb. Again thankfully, more trees than human residents were profoundly affected by the storm.

Indiana in general exercises due vigilance during tornado season, and with good reason. Residents of Russiaville (near Kokomo) still remember the Palm Sunday tornadoes of 1965, one of which almost wiped their town off the map. I heard about it while finishing my Army hitch in Texas at the time. And there were those southern Indiana tornadoes, one in the Evansville area a few years ago and last year’s storm that destroyed most of Henryville and killed 13 people.

Rumor has it that tornadoes don’t like to cross rivers. Many weather experts dispute that. But living just east of White River still gives me a bit of comfort whenever the storm warning sirens sound.

We have problems enough with ice storms, the last of which almost wiped out our big elm tree in the back yard. And we’re on the upper edge of a flood plain, though far enough and high enough that I’m not too worried about anything more serious than a little bit of water in our basement.

Anderson has some history of flooding, of course. I recall my early years here when water occasionally spilled onto Eighth Street and Milton Avenue in Park Place. Dredging the river in the late 1950s helped, but Athletic and Edgewater parks are still vulnerable during the flooding season.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by email at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.

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