Blowing the tornado sirens during a snowstorm is like setting off the fire alarm on the Titanic: Can’t really improve the general mood and makes you wonder how you should prioritize.
On one hand, it’s snowing in late April in amounts normally associated with Rudolph songs, which makes the sun-starved good folk of Minnesota realize that our yearly ration of green will feel so short this year that we’ll react to autumn like a cat being put into a toilet; on the other hand, the siren is the seasonal sound of twisty mayhem. Maybe it is a blizzard tornado. A Snownado. A Torzzard.
Maybe the sirens are screaming because THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE FEELS LIKE DOING.
But no. The sirens were a test. Severe Weather Awareness Week ends today. Every day had a theme.
Thursday was Tornadic Activity, hence the sirens. Wednesday was “Floods,” which stretches the definition of weather, but then again, Monday was “Hordes of Locusts.”
Today is “Heat.”
Well, “extreme” heat. If you can imagine such a thing. The Awareness website has useful suggestions of which you should be aware:
“Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place, is a much better way to cool off.”
Admit it: The thought of panting with exhaustion just from living under the blaring orb, slapping skeeters, sitting in your underwear in front of a box fan that goes tickety tickety because it’s cheap and something got loose — it all sounds like heaven right now.
But your kids would complain: “Dad, don’t sit in front of that box fan, copiously shedding bodily fluids. Come here in the room where the air conditioning is on.”
“What sort of book learning do they fill your head with at the school? I’m a fan man and my daddy was a fan man and we’ll always be fan people. Look here, it goes up to High. I’m saving that setting for when solid objects start to melt like a watch in a Salvador Dali paintin’.”
“Dad, you can’t rely on surrealist imagery to tell you when to move to a cooler locale. Mom, talk to him!”
If there’s too much AC usage, though, the power goes out. This year I am looking forward to it, because I bought an emergency flashlight the size of a Little League baseball bat. It uses 46 D-Cells, I think. It doubles as an X-ray machine. If I had two of them I could stand in the back yard and wave them back and forth and people in Duluth would wonder what movie was premiering in the Cities. I pointed it at the moon and got a reflection off the Apollo lander. If the power goes off, you can use it to read, but not a comic book, because everyone in the pictures will be squinting.
I also have an emergency radio powered by crank (insert your talk-radio joke here, if you must), and it’s perfect for situations where you’ve lost power. You spin the crank for a minute, and then a voice says there’s severe weather. That explains the tree-trunk embedded in the roof of the house and the lack of power! It’s all so obvious now!
Or, you could subscribe to a service that sends emergency updates via Facebook. Yes, by all means, send me a Facebook status update that says OMG, GRAY WHIRLING CARNAGE IS SIX BLOCKS AWAY with a GIF of a cat looking shocked. Then I can “like” it.
Still, it beats tweets for disaster news, since they’re limited to 140 characters. You don’t want to get this:
SW Minneapolis alert: hail, damaging winds, brimstone, and an F5 tornado seen touching down, causing major damage at intersection of 50th & …
I polled a few people about Severe Weather Awareness Week, and they were unaware of it. Why? Because it’s one of those public-service things no one pays attention to, like National Poison Licorice Month. If there’s a spate of tainted licorice, people say, “Why didn’t you warn us?” and the officials say, “We put up a website at https://www.candy.edu.gov/mn/confections/black/anthrax_nibs.shtml,” and no one says “Oh, https, I mistyped it.”
You want to make people aware of severeness? Blow the sirens every day from 8 to 5, then coordinate the sudden silence with an airdrop of leaflets about the dangers of bad weather.
They’ll know what to do when the leaflets fall down from the sky, of course. Papercut Awareness Week made sure of that.
James Lileks • 612-673-7858