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May – “Don’t worry, it’s just the tornado siren again”

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May in Oklahoma means one thing: tornadoes!  It’s the state’s most famous weather phenomenon, and not a May goes by that we don’t see Gary England on TV telling people to take cover, stay off the streets, and get out of your mobile homes.  He’s become so famous for his tornado reporting that he even does an educational show at local schools called “Those Terrible Twisters.”  With a title like that, is it any wonder that Oklahoma was the primary location for the filming of the movie Twister?

If you’re new to Oklahoma or just visiting, you may find the native response to tornadoes a little, well, off, especially in the rural areas.  Away from the city, people hear that a tornado is on its way and, instead of running for the cellar or those interior rooms, they head outside with the camcorder to watch and take video.  Some Oklahomans even chase storms in their vehicles.  These storm chasers are considered a little odd even by many Oklahomans, but the videos they capture are amazing. 

Even within the city, tornado sirens become such a common place sound that people generally only take cover when a tornado is on the ground in their immediate vicinity.  That doesn’t mean Oklahomans are stupid or live dangerously, just that if we dropped everything at the mention of a tornado, well, we’d spend a good part of the month of May in the closet or basement.

There is one exception to this rule: if you live in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, you know better than to wait around after the sirens go off.  Moore is located dead center in what is known as Tornado Alley, and the city has suffered major damage twice in the past five years.  However, in showing true Oklahoma stubbornness, residents rebuild every time, refusing to allow nature to dictate where they live.  Besides Moore, tornadoes have recently done damage to the area around the Frontier Amusement park and in other areas of the state.  While most rebuild, some give in; the huge outlet mall near Stroud, Oklahoma, was leveled one year and has never been replaced.

But May isn’t all about tornadoes.  It’s a time when Oklahomans celebrate graduations, go to baseball games in Bricktown, and start gardening.  Flowers bloom all over the city, and kites dot the sky as kids get out of school and return to the city parks.  Many outdoor festivals and events are held during this month, and it’s a great time to see live music or have a picnic.  Just keep an eye out for those dark clouds and an ear out for Gary and his shouts of “take cover, a tornado is on the ground!”

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