I just received a news release urging folks in the Southwest to prepare for the severe weather season. My first question is: When in the Southwest is it NOT severe weather season?
I guess it depends on one's definition of severe weather, but having grown up in more moderate climes, I consider freezing rain, which, in the Southwest, can occur from sometime in November through late March, as severe weather.
Then there are the tornadoes. We had those in the Southeast, too. (One came through South Carolina once and caused $1 million in improvements. But I digress.) We always set a fairly rigid schedule for our tornado season, April through September. No tornadoes were permitted during the off months. The season is a bit less defined throughout the Southwest and I've lost sleep during the dead of winter wondering if a tornado was going to tear out my crape myrtles.
Hurricane threats are more limited here, unless you live on the coast and it's your house blowing away. Then it's not nearly limited enough. Hurricanes occur mostly from early summer to mid-fall. But, as the modern philosopher Jimmy Buffet says, it's no use “trying to reason with hurricane season.”
I also consider 110-degree temperatures in May a severe weather event. But, as native Southwesterners like to inform those of us who came to the Promised Land a bit late, “it's a dry heat.” I have noticed that temperatures hovering above the century mark in west Texas require much less perspiration than a similar temperature would in, say, South Georgia. But to a man who's prone to heat stress, 110 is severely hot!
Also, the Southwest claims no definitive windy season, but I think it runs roughly from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. Dallas, I've learned, is windier than Chicago, and Amarillo is windier than Dallas. I shudder to think of the millions of kites that have been ripped out of sobbing children's hands during a Southwestern spring breeze. And one hopes that relatively few children get tangled in the kite string and spirited away to Arkansas or some other foreign country.
And, yes, I consider 50 mile per hour winds severe weather, especially when they're driving a bank of dust, red and roiling and resembling something out of the Book of Revelation. It gets dark in the middle of the day and particles of sand find their way into places where they have no business.
And the thing about dust storms that make them so remarkable is that they can occur at just about anytime in the Southwest. All that's required is a good stiff breeze and plenty of dust, both of which occur in abundance.
Flood season also defies delineation. Flooding is prone to occur in the Southwest when it rains. If one can predict the rain, he can get a pretty good handle on when floods are likely.
Severe weather is a constant concern for Southwestern residents. We live with it. It's one of the factors that make folks strong and determined.
The imminent threat of an entertaining weather event also forces folks to prepare. The news release offered helpful hints on emergency supplies: canned food, bottled water, flashlights, money, insurance policies, clothing, bandages, medicines and some sort of cooking device that requires neither electricity nor gas. The list also included duct tape, but one should never be without a roll of duct tape anyway, or WD-40 for that matter.
I'd add a few more. Snakebite medicine. Jack Daniels was my Uncle Rufus' favorite, used daily as a preventive measure.
A fishing rod could be useful, especially in floods or if a body of water is nearby, and since you can't go to work anyway you might as well go fishing.
A Monopoly game would also be useful, not to play, since I hate Monopoly, but those little fake bills make good tinder to start fires. And I'd bring a James Mitchner novel, in case the emergency lasts for a month or two.
I'd also collect some seed and a few animals in case I had to start civilization all over from scratch. I'd hate to be the last person on earth and had failed to prepare.