“it was windy” or: tornadoes, a love story

(cw: thirsty enby, scary weather stuff, anxiety/panic, bdsm reference)

i forgot that there’s a girl-type person in Twister who wears glasses, a floppy hat, and a plaid shirt unbuttoned with a t-shirt under it, and they’re a background character that doesn’t talk much but they’re super helpful & nice. this is awkward because i don’t remember giving permission for my likeness to be used in this movie.

also, one of the people i was watching this with suggested a lesbian plot where Jo isn’t trying to get back together with bill, she’s just trying to break him & Melissa up so she can have Melissa. and i actually said no to this because i just don’t find Melissa compelling in the slightest. which may be the first time in recorded history that i’ve turned down a lesbian reinterpretation of something. like, the Avril Lavigne song “Girlfriend” isn’t about a girl trying to get a guy to break up with his girlfriend so she can have him, she’s trying to get him to break up with her so she can have her. it’s a lesbian power move. fight me. (especially fight me if ur a girl. u gotta make out with me afterwards tho. i don’t make the rules.)

so, yeah. i love this movie? i loved it before it even came out in theaters, i loved it in theaters, i had it on vhs, and i watched it way too much. i will literally never get tired of it. more than that, i love tornadoes. when i was a kid, i read books about them, any time there was some documentary about tornadoes on tv i watched it, and i had vhs copies of tornado video compilations like Twister: Fury on the Plains and Tornado Video Classics Volumes 1, 2, and 3. (i’m the one who added those to letterboxd a few years ago because i’m a nerd.) i used to watch those at least as much as the actual movies that i watched on vhs over & over, and i never got tired of them. i was a weird child, ok?

thing is, i grew up in the midwest. and there just… isn’t a lot to do there, ok? and like, ok, that’s not entirely fair because i grew up in the chicago suburbs so there is some stuff to do (though mostly that amounts to, uh, shopping?), but sometimes when my family decided the chicago suburbs weren’t boring enough, we would go see my extended family in north dakota. which… if u’ve never had the pleasure, yeah. it’s… actually the most boring place in the world. u know what there is to talk about in the midwest? the fucking weather. but luckily the weather is actually kinda interesting there because we got tornadoes!

this also piggybacked onto the fact that like… i went thru phases of being interested in pretty much everything when i was very little. for like a week the titanic would be the most interesting thing in the world to me, and i would read every book i could get my hands on about it. then things would shift and i’d be interested in knights & castles & all that shit, so i’d read a bunch about that. then suddenly it would be sharks, let’s learn literally everything we can about sharks from the library. no wait, just kidding, now we’re interested in cats! wait nope it’s cars now. did i say cars? i meant fighter jets. nope wait it’s space, definitely space. etc etc etc.

well, i went thru one of those phases with tornadoes/natural disasters, and the tornado part of it kinda stuck because, like i said, tornadoes were a thing that actually happened around me! usually this didn’t amount to anything more than “oh the sirens are going off we have to go downstairs” (or in the hallway if it was at school), but… u know what? let’s literally just talk about my tornado stories now. yep. that’s what we’re doing now. sorry. some of u are going to be 100% interested in this & some of u are going to be 0% interested in this & i don’t anticipate there being a whole lot of in between.

so, i recently talked about one really formative tornado-related experience i had. sometime when i was around that same young age, i was on a trip to north dakota with my father to see his side of the family. most of the drive was as boring as ever. once u pass fargo, u’ve got nothing but flat land between u & bismarck. but that’s actually really fucking cool when storms are forming, because u can see for miles.

we saw this huge-ass storm in the distance, which i very proudly identified as a supercell thunderstorm. it honestly could’ve been a picture in a textbook, it was such a perfect representation. and the road kept curving so it would look like we were veering away from it, but then it kept curving right back in the direction of the storm. eventually when we got close enough to bismarck we realized the thing was literally hovering right over the city like one of those damn saucer things from independence day. it was an incredible sight and i am now kicking myself about the fact that i didn’t get any pictures of it at the time.

i think that covers any truly interesting childhood stories of tornadoes (like, all the rest of them are really just the “the sirens went off & i had to go downstairs & i was scared” sort of thing; not very memorable.) so let’s fast forward to college i suppose!

so, i had a few distinct friend-groups my first few years in college, but there was a guy i hung out with on an almost daily basis if there wasn’t an especially compelling reason not to. we played video games basically nonstop. there were days when we ate all our meals together. we were basically inseparable. he was on the basketball team, so i went to basically every basketball game and joined the sort of organized student cheering section called blue crew (the kind that have t-shirts & go to some away games even, but aren’t cheerleaders because that’s a separate thing u have to try out for/practice/etc. we just yelled/chanted a lot.)

(“katherine, what the hell, u liked sports?” okay, a) let people like what they like, but b) no i really kinda don’t anymore? like the closest thing to a sport i watch anymore is overwatch league, which… let’s just say it’s a pretty different experience, ok?)

anyway, my sophomore year, the basketball team made the national tournament for the first time in school history, and it was a really, really big deal. so, the athletic department actually paid for a bus for a bunch of people from blue crew to go to the tournament to cheer them on. the thing is, in order to do this, we had to stay on campus during spring break, when the dorms were closed except for athletes who were staying on campus. in retrospect, that’s kinda dumb and i don’t see any reason why the people who were staying to go to the tournament couldn’t have also been allowed to stay in the dorms, but whatever. i had friends who were upperclassmen and lived in on-campus apartments instead of the dorms, so i was able to stay with one of them.

anyway, the first night i was staying on campus, said friend took me to grab some groceries so i would have stuff to eat and all that fun stuff while i’m staying with him. on our way back, there was some crazy lightning happening. like, it seemed like there was a flash every few seconds, and the sky was staying lit up for several seconds at a time. and we like… couldn’t help but stare & occasionally audibly react. that kind of lightning. it wasn’t raining… until right when we parked the car, at which point the sky just opened up and it was a torrential downpour. we tried to run the groceries to his apartment as fast as we could, but it didn’t matter how fast we were, the second we stepped out of the car we looked like we’d just jumped in a lake with our clothes on. we ended up having to just literally dump our clothes in his bathtub so they didn’t drip everywhere.

so, i thought that was a pretty impressive storm… until the night after. i started hearing thunder, and i stepped outside to find basically everyone that’s still on campus outside looking up at the sky. the lightning was ridiculous, and beautiful. like, it was forking all over the sky and just looking like it’s something from a movie, not real life.

and then the tornado sirens went off.

everyone just kinda looked at each other like, “oh… shit.” i did not think there was anywhere especially safe in these campus apartments if a tornado did come (the bathroom would’ve been the best bet). the dorm was definitely way safer, so i texted my other friend (the basketball player) and confirmed that yes, he’d be able to let me in the dorm. so i sprinted across campus to the dorm knowing there might literally be a tornado bearing down on me the whole time. needless to say, it was a pretty anxious run.

when i got there, everyone was taking shelter in the hallway. besides me, it was basically just the basketball team and an ra. someone plugged in a tv in the hallway so we could watch the news bulletin about the tornado. it’s going to sound like i’m making this next part up, but i promise u i am not. the power went out right as the anchor was saying, “the tornado has been sighted at–” i am not making this up this absolutely happened. so at this point we were basically in a horror movie.

eventually we got the all-clear, but the power stayed out. the ra told me that i could stay in the dorm because who cares at this point. my friend & i adjourned to one of the lounges and played cards by candlelight. a few hours passed like that and we started to get antsy about the power coming back on.

that’s where we were when the ra stopped by and gave us an update. (he was listening to the radio.) he told us about the damage, and it more or less sounded like an F3 tornado had torn thru downtown springfield. (the next day when we went and looked at the damage for ourselves, it looked more like F1 damage to me; perhaps fittingly, the storm ended up being classified an F2. at its closest approach, it was about a quarter of a mile away from me.)

but that wasn’t all. there was another storm coming from the southwest, following roughly the same path this one followed. it was going to be there in a few hours. they thought it was going to be as bad or worse.

it gets better.

the power was still out throughout springfield because there were gas mains busted up where the tornado hit on the main strip of retail stores sort of near us. the power company couldn’t start working on restoring power until those gas mains were repaired, because, y’know. sparks & gas leaks don’t tend to play well together.

“but the truly comforting part,” he told us, “is that they’re not sure they have enough reserve power to start the sirens back up if there’s another tornado when that other storm hits.”

my friend and i, who were now firmly convinced that we were in a horror movie about tornadoes (how is that not a thing btw), looked at each other and were like fuck that. so. his girlfriend was staying with her parents, who live in town, so we decided we were getting the fuck off campus and sleeping in her basement.

the drive through downtown springfield was eerie. the power had been out for hours. there was not a single light on anywhere. there weren’t traffic lights. there was nothing. and it was the middle of the night, so it was really, truly dark. it honestly felt more like a zombie apocalypse had happened than a tornado. what really got us was when we drove past the power plant and it didn’t have any power.

anyway, long story short (i know, i know, too late), the sirens did go off and his girlfriend’s family joined us in the basement at that point, but other than that the night passed more or less without incident.

there were a few other incidents at college involving tornadoes or tornado warnings. when i eventually became an ra (yeahhhh, not something i’m super proud of anymore but y’know) it seemed like every tornado warning that happened happened specifically when i was on duty (and then had to make an announcement over the intercom & supervise the evacuation etc). so that was a bit annoying/amusing. but none of these incidents are especially worth recounting.

so, now we talk about freshman move-in day my second year as an ra.

so, i was on parking lot duty with another ra, and there were some interesting-looking clouds, but it wasn’t not raining or anything. i honestly didn’t even know there were supposed to be storms that day. and then the assistant director of housing rolled up in her suv and–unnervingly calmly, in that like… fake-positive voice u use in customer service all the time–told us, ‘hi guys. so, a tornado warning was just issued for springfield. so i think if we could get everyone to–calmly–stop what they’re doing and come inside, that would be great.”

we kind of sighed as if this was something we’d dealt with a hundred times. (it kind of was?) after we got everyone into the dorm, the resident director who’s in charge of that building was like, “[deadname], come here.” it turned out she knew that i was a bit of a weather buff, so we parked ourselves right outside the front door of the dorm, and watch the storm. we yelled at a few people we saw outside to get inside, which… is ironic considering we weren’t setting the best example, but whatever. we finally decided to go inside when we started noticing small debris blowing in the wind.

(when i say small debris, i mean like… paper & stuff. this can happen as much as a mile away from the actual tornado, if not more. this particular tornado ended up actually getting pretty close to campus before pushing past it and hitting basically the same commercial district that got hit by the last tornado, which really seems like it was trying to tell them something.)

anyway. those are my only interesting (… if those interest u, it’s possible they bored u out of ur mind) tornado stories. so let’s zoom out and talk about some embarrassing personal feelings. (my favorite!)

growing up in the midwest, it was kind of a point of pride that we took things like tornadoes in stride while people who had less experience with them tended to freak out. we’re supposed to be like “eh, whatever, it happens.” that… is not how i felt about them.

i’ve talked about how i was super interested about tornadoes, but what i haven’t talked about is that they still scare the hell out of me. i know my experiences with tornadoes don’t sound particularly traumatic or anything, but they honestly did give me full-blown panic attacks more often than not. (unless i was the ra on duty and had things to be actively doing like managing the evacuation; having responsibilities in an emergency always helps me a hell of a lot.) and the more i tried to front the whole “oh, i know a bunch of stuff about these, and know exactly what to do, so i’m fine” sort of vibe, the more scared i actually got when they happened. but like.. i still weirdly miss living in a part of the country where they were a thing i had to deal with? and i’m kind of genuinely upset that i never got to see one with my own eyes? like, that was kind of a real goal of mine?

i guess what i’m trying to say is that tornadoes attract & terrify me at the same time. and if that sounds kinda BDSMy… i mean, yeah! it kind of is! i don’t think the fear & attraction are separate things at all. i think the fear is part of the attraction. the more i think about it, the more tornadoes are kinda the closest thing to kaiju that i can actually experience in real life. and like… yeah, ok, u can’t literally bang a tornado, but… i’m not remotely certain the attraction isn’t psycho-sexual. at the very least, the power differential between a person & a tornado is… a thing. and having so little power in relation to something so raw & primal & natural provokes… feelings. i’m not really educated enough in the field that i’m sort of playing around with here to dig much deeper than this, but… i’m just saying i think there’s probably something there.

with all that in mind… of fucking course i love this movie. do i even need to say that? like, that’s before u even factor in Our Lady & Savior Helen Hunt. (throughout this viewing, i kept interjecting “omg she’s so pretty” during particularly striking shots of her, and i think it amused the heck out of the folks i was watching it with.)

i don’t think my opinion of this movie ever has, ever will, or ever can change. it’s comfort food. it brings me joy. i loved it when i saw it in theaters, i loved it when i watched it way too much on vhs, and i love it now. i cannot ever imagine getting tired of it.

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