SHEENA BARNETT: Mom’s phobia turns into fascination

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Some days, I don’t even know who my mama is anymore. Let me explain. When I was a kid and the skies blackened and thunder bellowed, she’d shove me and my older cousin Shawna into a closet with a pile of books and a flashlight to ride out storms that threatened a possible tornado.
I was too young to read, but Shawna could, so she read book after book to me – thus keeping us both entertained and out of harm’s way, while a storm raged outside. Meanwhile, my mama and grandma would pace the floors, watch the news and worry.
That mama – pun intended – is gone with the wind.
TV shows like “Twister Sisters” and “Storm Chasers” – both now cancelled – fueled her new obsessions – storm chasing and tornadoes.
Over the weekend, my formerly frightened-of-fierce-weather mama and I traveled to Memphis, where we watched an IMAX movie, “Tornado Alley,” and met filmmaker and storm chaser Sean Casey and peered inside the TIV, or tornado intercept vehicle.
Casey and other storm chasers typically chase storms in tornado alley, where it’s easy to see and collect data about tornadoes that drop down in open fields. Casey’s movie shows everything about tornadoes, from their threatening inception to the total devastation they leave behind, all on a 40-foot-tall IMAX screen.
So even I, who will forever be terrified of tornadoes, found many of the tornadoes and huge, black storm clouds in “Tornado Alley” breathtaking and majestic.
As for the final scene, which Casey and his TIV crew actually filmed inside a tornado – there are absolutely no words to describe it. The power of those winds was unbelievable.
Much of the film was beautiful, but that last scene was truly scary, and it reminded me why I’ll always be afraid of storms.
Living in Northeast Mississippi my entire life, I can’t shake things I’ve seen and experienced: Smithville’s destruction, the damaged caused by a tornado in Pontotoc, my hometown, more than 10 years ago, and the loss of a classmate to a deadly tornado.
I’ll appreciate those fatal fascinations from afar, and preferably away from homes and towns, thank you very much.
My mom is still a little nervous about storms, but her curiosity is most definitely piqued.
A few weeks ago, she suggested we spend my birthday weekend on a storm chasing tour in parts of Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Dakota with professional storm chasers. Apparently, if you spend roughly $3,000 a person – a price that is, mercifully, outside our budget – you can chase storms, too.
My mama’s not crazy enough to go chasing down storms on her own, thank goodness. But she’s gone from hiding us in the hall closet to peering up to see what could drop down out of angry, rolling skies.
As for me, I think I’ll stay indoors – but not in the hall closet – when a storm hits, and curl up with a good book.
Hey, some things never change.

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