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Chasing the Storm, Acrylic on Canvas 30 x 40″

January 21, 2010

“Chasing the Storm” – Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 40 x 1.5″

I’m not a storm chaser and don’t understand why anyone would want to be one. But that’s the title of this painting anyway. I think I named it that in defiance of my lifelong fear of tornadoes.

I grew up in the edge of Tornado Alley — right here, where we now live again. We went from hurricanes to tornadoes. At least you get lots of warning with a hurricane.

When I was growing up here, my Dad was deathly afraid of tornadoes, and would often run down the hall in the dark of night and yell for us to get up and get into a closet or a bathroom because he just knew one was coming. The panic on his face and in his voice always terrified me, and that stayed with me for a long time. Of course we didn’t have weather radar to track them as accurately as they do now, so he was always vigilant during storm season when there were heavy winds and lightning. My Dad’s reason for being so afraid  was understandable. His aunt and uncle were killed in a tornado when he was young and he never got over that.

Once when I was a young adult, our family was out fishing in a boat on the lake and we got caught in a sudden storm before we could get to shore. By the time we did make it back to jump out of the boat and tie it up, a huge tornado was bearing down on us. My mother always told me that if  you could see the funnel cloud moving from one side to the other, you were safe. This one wasn’t moving. It was just getting larger. We scrambled for shelter inside a little block building where there was a fishing tackle shop, along with a dozen or so other folks, until the storm passed through. The building survived, but there was a lot of damage around us. Some of the roads were impassable getting home. Several times we had to drive around big trees in the road, and people were already out with their chainsaws cutting their way through. Our house was safe, but we had lost several trees.

Later after I had married and left the area, my Dad had a storm cellar dug out beside their house. Storm cellars are a common sight around here, especially out in the country. I’ve never been inside one, but they do serve a dual purpose. You can keep potatoes, flower bulbs, and jars of jelly in them year round.

It has been raining off and on for the past three days, but nothing threatening that I could tell. But just now I walked by the television and a local station was reporting that a tornado had touched down in Huntsville, just an hour away. The residents told the same familiar story. Things got suddenly quiet (there’s a reason they say “the calm before the storm”) then they heard a community warning siren, and then the tornado hit immediately afterward. It apparently wasn’t a devastating one as storms go around here, but it is always frightening just the same.

The pictures tell the story. My painting tells another one.

More information about this painting and other available works is here on my website.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2010 10:57 pm

    Martha, as I was reading along I remembered my grandmother telling me about her first memory of being in Canada at age five. She and her cousins were running up and down the storm cellar stairs playing a children’s game when they stopped playing because all their mother’s were crying. None of the men had made it to the storm cellar in time before the tornado came through. As it turned out they were safe but the memory stayed with her there after.

    We just had some high winds and much damage this past week and I get really nervous anytime the winds start to climb about 60 km per hour. I just know in my bones and belly that it is not good. Your painting captures that feeling very well for me.

    • January 22, 2010 7:10 am

      Terrill, I share that feeling with you. I’m glad to know the painting conveys some of it.

  2. January 22, 2010 5:29 am

    for as unpleasant as the memories are and the weather when it goes crazy, its kind of cool to see an inspired abstract painting from those memories. i liked reading about your childhood…

    • January 22, 2010 7:11 am

      Thanks, Paula! There are a million stories. Maybe I should write (and paint) more of them.

  3. January 22, 2010 7:09 am

    Nice post, Martha. Nine tornadoes were confirmed around us the other night. Luckily, they swept past us here while some areas were not so lucky.

  4. January 22, 2010 11:06 am

    Your creation reminds me of some of the wonderful cloud formations here, especially when they have a totally black spot on top of a normal looking cloudl.

    I too live in tornado alley at the edge of Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Prior to moving in this area, we checked out tornado alley and thought we were far away.

    When we moved here in 2006, the first night we were without phone service, television, radio, etc. We were so tired that we went to bed early (only thing set up). We heard lots of wind, and the lightning show was beautiful and amazing.

    The next morning we got up and went to our daily trip to “Walmarts” and a friend had left a message on my cell phone (didn’t work in the house):
    “Don’t know if you can hear the town siren out there, but we had 133
    tornado warnings last night.”

    All we could do at that time was laught at our first night in tornado alley. Of course we bought a weather tracking station.

    • January 22, 2010 1:34 pm

      Goodness gracious, Caroline! That’s a lot of tornado activity. I hope that weather tracking station helps you to stay safe.

  5. January 22, 2010 12:22 pm

    Wow – great painting and wonderful story about your tornadic experiences! I have several tornado stories having grown up in Iowa and Indiana and gone to school in Missouri and Illinois, and of course having lived in Kansas 10 years. The funny part about yesterday was my husband and I had a conversation at dinner about how fortunate we were that we don’t get tornados in Arizona, or earthquakes. Not an hour later when I turned on the news there was a tornado watch! Ironic. It never touched down, thankfully, but gave residents of north Scottsdale and Cave Creek something more to worry about besides flash flooding. Our desert got half our ususal rainfall FOR THE YEAR in the past 24 hours! Now there’s a record!

    • January 22, 2010 1:35 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Nancy! Looks like you can’t get away from the things. And that rainfall is amazing.

  6. January 22, 2010 6:00 pm

    I have enjoyed these past three images very much! This one has a lot of mystery and unity, too.

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