By Grant McGee: Local Columnist
Clovis’ tornado warning sirens last Friday evening spooked me. Not in a bad way. Maybe it was something as simple as they signaled that evening would be different than most recent evenings.
The sirens had been preceded by high winds and dust but no rain. I knew we were getting a downdraft off of something. The power went out. Then came the sirens. I went into the front yard and had a look around. I saw the angry storm to the east. I looked up and down the street. Some of my neighbors had come out of their homes, people I’d never seen before, but now we had something in common: Our power was out and the tornado warning sirens meant destruction may be whipping toward us from somewhere out there on the Plains.
City officials later said there was no tornado and they did not know why the sirens went off.
I think a lot of us have the hair on our arms stand up when we hear those sirens, no matter the reason they sound. Some of us “getting up in years” may remember the “duck and cover” drills of our childhood. I remember them from my early school years. We were told if we saw a bright flash to get under our desks, stick our heads between our knees and cover our heads with our arms. As adults we came to realize that it wouldn’t have done us much good to go through these motions in the event of an actual thermonuclear attack. In college during the Cold War, with missiles pointed at our homeland, friends said sticking your head twixt your knees after you saw the bright flash simply served to kiss a certain part of your anatomy goodbye.
There were citywide nuclear drills when I was a kid in Buffalo, N.Y. The instructions were when the sirens went off everybody was supposed to get away from windows and clear the streets. During one drill I peeked out a window. There were no cars moving, no people to be seen. It was spooky.
When we lived in Hawaii there were air raid sirens and tsunami sirens (back then we called them “tidal waves”). The tsunami sirens were wailing the night of the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964. People were running around, the television was busy with special reports. It was scary for a little boy. Another time a lizard set off the switchbox for the air raid siren in Honolulu. It caused quite a stir. There was no news on how the lizard fared.
Was it the summer of 2000 when the tornado warning sirens went off accidentally in the middle of the night here in Clovis? I don’t remember the date but I remember that was spooky. I was living on Tucker Avenue. It was past midnight when I was awakened by the sirens wailing. There was no high wind, no thunder, only some distant lightning. I stepped out of my house. The scene was eerie. Except for the distant lightning the sky didn’t seem to be threatening. The sirens and the night made it seem like something was lurking in the darkness. Lights came on and people started to come out of their homes.
Our tornado warning sirens don’t scare me, they just remind me of the power of nature. Aside from warning us, sirens have another power: They’re able to pull us away from our televisions and get us out of our homes to possibly meet our neighbors.
Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org