- ABOUT US
Karlie Tipton, Associate Editor
Photo by STEVEN WALKER
By Karlie Tipton
March 26, 2015
I don’t often think of myself as an Oklahoman. Not that I think of myself as un-Oklahoman necessarily, it’s just that my residential status, like my gender or my hair color, is not something I actively ponder on a regular basis. But last night, I was reminded how frightening, bewildering, gratifying, and exciting it can be to live in Oklahoma.
All day yesterday, various news outlets warned of the impending storms, but by late afternoon, the radar looked relatively harmless. There was a small green blob out to the northeast, but it seemed like central Oklahoma was in the clear.
Around 6:15, when my husband and I walked in to Taco Bell, the sky was darkening. Despite the ominous clouds rolling in, our desire for cheap Mexican food was stronger than the threat of a thunderstorm. The girl who took our order looked anxious and immediately starting chatting with us about the weather. I was struck by the fact that this was the first time any Taco Bell employee—who usually seem like they would like to avoid customers as much as possible—had ever spoken to me about anything other than Taco Bell-related business. We talked amiably about what we had heard on the news, what we had seen outside, and the fact that we would probably end up just getting some rain (I never claimed to be an expert in meteorology).
After we had gotten our food (thankfully not before, because I was really hungry), angry shouts erupted from the kitchen. Someone had heard that there might be a tornado in the area. A few of the employees wanted to stay while others didn’t want to take shelter in a walk-in freezer. As the teen-aged staff ran outside to look at the sky, leaving us totally alone, we decided to hurry up and get out of there.
We hadn’t been driving for two minutes when the sky opened up, pouring rain and quarter-sized hail on top of us and everyone else stuck in traffic. I guess I have never driven through significant hail before, because I can’t remember the last time I was so scared. I was scared for the car—which was my husband’s and not mine. I was scared for us—I was sure at any moment the windshield would shatter or we would get into an accident. I was scared for our dogs—they were home alone and would have no idea to go into the closet in the event of a tornado. And I was scared for everyone we knew who was experiencing the same storm. As we drove down an already flooded Rockwell in what sounded like an aluminum popcorn popper, I clenched my hands as tight as I could and prayed we would get home before anything too bad happened.
We finally pulled into our garage about twenty minutes later, and I underwent a physiological change I don’t quite understand. The continuing hail and blaring tornado sirens kept my adrenaline high, but my fear was at least in part transformed into excitement. Turning on the TV and seeing Mike Morgan gesticulating wildly filled me with that old familiar feeling of riding a roller coaster: I want it to end as soon as possible, but I feel exhilarated every second.
Once the immediate warning had passed and my hands stopped shaking, my immediate concern was finding out if my co-workers in Moore and family in Tulsa were okay. Once I knew everyone was safe, my blood pressure went to normal and I was able to watch the news in awestruck but relative calm. But with April fast approaching and May just around the corner, I know my relationship with the Oklahoma sky will be anything but boring.