Learning to Love Tornado Alley

By Oz Girl

When 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.”

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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

  • Published on Mar 10, 2010
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