Grit Blogs > City Gal Moves to Oz Land

Learning to Love Tornado Alley

A photo of Oz GirlWhen I first moved to Kansas from Ohio, I must admit I had some concerns about living in the center of the United States, an area well known for its frequent and frightening tornados. During an average year, over 1,000 tornadoes occur across the continental United States, with nearly a third of these tornadoes occurring in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, an area known as “Tornado Alley.”

Stormy sky above cows
I raced this huge and dark storm home one night after work, and still had time to snap quite a few photos from our front porch as it headed north just to our west.

Now that I've lived in Kansas for a year and a half, my fears have been assuaged to some extent; although we don't have a basement or storm shelter, we do have a weather radio and an interior closet that should work well in the event we need to take shelter.

Lightening in the clouds
I have been unsuccessful at capturing a jagged lightning strike to date, but I have captured several shots of lightning that is above the clouds.

I exercise common sense when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and of course, it helps that we have such a wide and open view of the prairie all around us. We can often see the storm as it advances from the west or southwest, and then take action accordingly depending on which direction it is heading.

Another stormy sky
Many of our storms here seem to pass just 1 mile to our south, along the Kansas/Oklahoma border.

I no longer work myself into a panic whenever the weather becomes foreboding. Instead, I run and grab my camera, eager to photograph some of nature’s most exciting and beautiful stormy sky displays.

Fantastic stormy sunset
So many of the storms seem to provide extra-brilliant and colorful sunsets.

Many times the landscape is at its most beautiful immediately after a severe storm, as evidenced by the glow at our pond last summer; this photo is straight out of my camera, with no retouching whatsoever. The glow lasted about 3 minutes and then it was gone!

Glow after a storm
The after-storm-glow near our pond one day last summer, after a particularly severe storm.

Spring and summer storms here in south central Kansas have also produced some of our most glorious and striking sunsets.

Stormy sunset
Another beautiful sunset, thanks to a severe storm earlier that afternoon.

Tornado season is almost upon us again, but instead of feeling fearful, I am now in awe of the stormy spectacles that nature is capable of producing. Perhaps I’ve missed my calling, and I should have been a storm chaser, as I'm looking forward to capturing my first tornado photos with my camera someday!

Sepia windmill
A lone windmill added detail to a stark landscape with a dark and stormy sky in the background.

oz girl
3/12/2010 11:45:08 AM

Thanks for the compliment, Mountain Woman. You were very lucky indeed to have the storm shelter and I sincerely hope that we can put one in someday soon. Somehow that closet in the middle of the house just doesn't make me feel all safe and cozy in case of really bad weather! Cindy, that must have been absolutely amazing to sit on your porch and watch that water spout form! And honestly, if I ever do get the "opportunity" to see a tornado, I'm hoping it's off in the distance a-ways. :) Tammy, I'm amazed how differently I view storms since I moved from OH to KS. I was always petrified of extremely severe storms with tornado warnings attached when I lived in Ohio - and now I think that was probably because I couldn't see very far past the houses and so had that sense of really not knowing what was coming, whereas out here, I can see the weather system/front approach us, and take appropriate action as needed. I find it utterly amazing that I can watch a system pass to our west or south while we can experience minimal or no damage at all! And I agree with you... MO is definitely in that tornado belt.


tammy@flatcreekfarm
3/11/2010 3:15:01 PM

What gorgeous shots! I am now inspired to start attempting some good weather shots. If I hear "tornado" it sends me into a crazy spin (literally). Maybe if I can preoccupy myself with taking pictures, it wouldn't be so scary. We do not have a basement or storm shelter either. Here in central MO over the past couple of years we've had a few deaths (by tornado) within 15 miles of us... on two separate occasions! I think we could safely say we're in that famous tornado alley as well now. Tornadoes can certainly be deadly, but if we learn to respect them and use our heads (and perhaps see the beauty in the treacherous weather)... we can survive. Great post - and thanks for helping to calm me down a bit about this tornado thing :)


cindy murphy
3/11/2010 2:32:22 PM

Gorgeous photos, Oz Girl. I agree - there is nothing quite like the sky before and after a storm. I love to sit out on the porch, and watch it brewing out over the lake. It always comes in so fast, and the aftermath is just as beautiful. Last year, I witnessed my first water-spout - it's like a tornado over the water, swirling water high into the air. It quickly dissipates though, once it hits land and there is no water to fuel it. Tornadoes are fascinating too...to watch on television. I can't say I'd ever want to see one in person.


mountain woman
3/11/2010 5:30:41 AM

Susan, You have beautiful photographs. There is something about storm skies that are so amazing. But I guess I don't care for tornadoes because we were in the Ozarks 3 years ago when a tornado came through and the destruction it did both in terms of property and loss of life was terrible. A small town right by us was wiped out and people were killed not to mention all the animals in the pasture (it's beef country where we were). We were just lucky the tornado veered slightly and didn't take out our town. I was terrified and very thankful Mountain Man had built a storm shelter for us and the dogs.