The power of tornadoes told in words and pictures


In the wake of the death and devastation caused by tornadoes across the country yesterday, and with more violent storms possibly on the way in the Northeast, former Gawker and current Blackbook editor Chris Mohney, a child of the South, shared some of his personal memories on tornadoes

Some people in my family were killed more than ten years ago by a tornado in Alabama, and some survived. Those who died, died bad, and the repercussions resonated through three families and several generations of those families. That tragedy will continue to have consequences for the direct and indirect survivors well beyond my experience, and the particular, personal details of that story are not mine to tell. Cathartic as it might be for me, I don’t believe you get to own everything you encounter.
There are some things I can talk about. Growing up in the south gives you a fascination with tornadoes. They are evil in intent and mythic in scale, fickle beasts, revered and feared in an almost spiritual way. As kids, before you really know the destruction they cause, and if you are lucky enough to never really live through one, tornado warnings are exciting. We would huddle in the hallways in school, not-so-secretly thrilled about the electric suspense we imagined in the air. In almost all cases nothing came of it. A lot of time, resources, and attention are spent warning people in the south about severe weather in general and tornadoes in particular. Watching weather reports, interpreting weather radar — these are regional obsessions when a storm is lurking.

And here Mohney recounts a vivid childhood memory related to a tornado touching down near his home…

One report I remember from the aftermath news came from a man in a very small town that was mostly erased by the tornado. He told the paper how his neighbor, an elderly man living alone, was always paranoid about tornadoes. The old man was partly disabled, so the neighbor would check on him whenever there was a storm. He did this as the tornado approached the town; the old man was terrified, inconsolable. When it became obvious that a real tornado was coming, the neighbor realized he had to get back to his house to see to his own family. He tried to bring the old man, but he wouldn’t come. Finally the neighbor got the old man into a closet for some protection. Even though he wouldn’t leave, the old man pleaded with the neighbor to stay. But the neighbor had to go. The tornado came and spared the neighbor’s house, but the old man’s was reduced to kindling, scraped down to the bare foundations. The old man was dead. The thing that frightened him most in the world had killed him.

After the jump, a handful of terrifying and powerful pics taken in the aftermath of the storms that swept through the South yesterday.

(Photo via: AP/Birmingham News/Jeff Roberts)
(AP/Decatur Daily/Brennen Smith)
(AP/Butch Dill)
(AP/TimesDaily/Daniel Giles)
(AP/TimesDaily/Daniel Giles)
(AP/The Ledger & Times/Kyser Lough)
(AP/Danny Johnston)
(AP/Butch Dill)
(AP/The Birmingham News/Jeff Roberts)
(AP/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal/C. Todd Sherman)
(AP/The Southern/Stephen Rickerl)

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