Tuesday, May 24, 2022 -
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Devastation in Kentucky

The images from the tornadoes that hit Kentucky, are devastating.

I remember as an 18-year-old, during my gap year in Israel, I landed at a Shabbat meal, where among the guests was a graduate student pursuing a doctorate in weather.

At the time, it sounded so niche and boring to me. Really, weather? I didn’t know much about weather at the time; weather was more a matter of checking the newspaper for the next day’s temperature, so as to dress appropriately.

When I was 18, deep stimulating ideas were the height of my curiosity. Nothing could have sounded duller to me, than spending time observing or thinking about weather.

Little did I know, I would become a weather lover.

When the opportunity and gift strikes (pardon the pun!), I swiftly recite the blessings for lightning and thunder with special gusto. Other than bitter brutal bone cold days, nasty winds for scorchers, for the most part I truly adore and enjoy the variety of the four seasons. The burnt and muted golden autumns, the pristine winters of Denver, the blossoming blooms of spring and the sultry sun-kissed summers.

I even take a certain pleasure in the accessories of each season, be they sandals and sunglasses, coats, hats, scarves and gloves, or an umbrella.

When I was younger, I was terrified of thunderstorms. Yet, sometime along the path of my life, an imperceptible change took place, and I fell in love with the powerful experience of a good thunderstorm.

Aside from the electric crackles and scary but invigorating strength of a rainstorm, I became interested in the physics of it. That led me to learning some random basics, like about Benjamin Franklin and his kite experiment, and Thomas Edison and his controversial electrocuting of animals.

As the years went by, my fascination grew past the pleasure of my personal experiences or random trivia tidbits. I started reading National Geographic and found the idea of storm chasers compelling. It was an engima to me, and I wondered what drew them to come face to face with mother nature’s wrath.

Storm photographers as well, captured my interest.

People who walk into the path of danger, who can literally look the violence of a storm in the eye, just so they can be in the presence of the extreme, of nature’s merciless violence exploding — and for some, even capture it.

To be sure, it’s not just the thrill of the danger that precipitates such storm chasing. Collecting data and learning from the experience so as to benefit society in the event of future storms, is often the motivation.

Nonetheless, it is fascinating to contemplate what makes people tick, for those who choose to be with weather when it is at its most severe. I’m intimidated, but intellectually I do understand the draw and fascination.

Seeing the terrifying images of debris from Kentucky, while you stand back in awe of nature’s power, and feel the smallness and vulnerability of the human being, you think of all those people, all those fatalities, of people who never dreamed of coming in close proximity with nature’s storms.

They didn’t elect to be caught in a tornado.

So much of Kentucky was destroyed in the path of this tornado. People were pinned down by debris — their lives waning before them. Others, horrifically, were crushed to death.

So much of Kentucky life — homes and humans — was simply uprooted, in one terrifying instant.

Then comes that terrible phase that follows the devastation: the searches. As teams comb through the rubble, the hope and wait for survivors is almost palpable.

When I was 18, for the most part, weather basically was a matter of, should I wear a raincoat, a sweater, a hat or sunglasses?

These past few years weather has become more and more extreme.

The fires. The hurricanes. The storms.

I do worry for the future, of what tragedies and emergencies that future generations will have to contend with.

Unlike those lone storm chasers, Kentuckians were chased by the tornado.

I fear for future storms and extreme weather scenarios. I pray nature will be more gentle with us.

And we in turn, that we learn to honor and protect nature, when it is in our hands to do so.

Copyright © 2021 by the Intermountain Jewish News

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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