I grew up just outside of Chicago, which is just northeast of the Mississippi plains area known as "Tornado Alley". As a child, I remember being very afraid of tornadoes. The twister scenes at the beginning of "The Wizard of Oz" were as frightening to me as the wicked witch or the flying monkeys. My family's ranch style house lacked a basement, so when there was a warning on the radio or TV, we'd seek shelter near a door threshold away from any windows. At school we would have tornado drills which followed the "duck and cover" protocol of a nuclear attack drill.
The only time I actually saw a tornado first hand was as a teen visiting a friend's house. A storm came up unexpectedly and the sky turned a sickly greenish color. There was a sudden hailstorm and on the horizon I could see a lighter grey funnel cloud descend from the sky and touch ground. Since then there have been many other warnings, but no sightings.
I still have occasional dreams in which tornadoes tear the roof off a building as I'm waiting out a storm. I can only imagine the psychological effects of those who've experienced a tornado first hand. Many have symptoms similar to earthquake survivors, who report long term traumatic stress including a sense of helplessness and of course, nightmares.
For the record, here are a couple of FALSE tornado myths:
• Tornadoes don't hit areas near rivers, lakes or mountains. • Tornadoes don't hit big cities.
The fact is, tornadoes can hit and do hit any time at any place.
And finally, some reminders of how to be prepared for a tornado, courtesy of the Red Cross : Tornado Safety Checklist