Story 11. Outbreak
About a year after Thermo’s encounter with snow and ice beings Thermo was roaming around over the Ohio Valley in the eastern U.S. with his pals Puffy and Fluffy. It was a beautiful day in the spring of 1974. Way up near where the Wispy’s of this world reside Thermo noticed a great wall of clouds stretching just east of the great Mississippi River rapidly getting taller and angrier looking. Thermo had never seen such a sight before, although from time to time he did spy on, but kept his distance from, The Clan of The Storms where sometimes he caught glimpses of Twista and Twisto.
Thermo said to Fluffy and Puffy, who almost immediately saw what Thermo was viewing in the distance, “Oh my, I have never in my life seen broken lines of storms boiling and developing that are as tall and mean looking or as numerous. What in the world can The Clan of the Storms be up to?”
Fluffy, said, “I don’t know but this can’t be good. I know that we can’t do much to stop Twista. It looks like this is something that Twisto would plan to produce havoc and destruction on the humans for sheer joy and spite. The humans love to stir up poor ant piles. Perhaps Twisto is trying to do the same with them? ”
Puffy said “I know what you can do Thermo. Is there any way you can warn one human in advance of this attack? Perhaps the poor thing can get out the word via those human instruments called radio and television to warn others?”
Thermo said, “That’s a great idea! I have picked up on my listening antenna something fairly new called weather radio. The human weather forecasters broadcast conditions and forecasts 24 hours a day. Maybe I could get in touch with one of them, although my appearance will be a shock. Only my creator, the human Dr. Keeling, knows about my existence, and he might not approve of any revelation.”
Fluffy said, “Well Thermo, you have no time to waste, and you can’t just fly back to Hawaii to get permission, so stop pussyfooting around and do some action!”
Thermo said, “O.K. you two fly off out of the way toward the Gulf Coast and get a good sun burn. I’ll jet off to Cincinnati, which is the closest city, and try to get the word out.” Fluffy and Puffy agreed.
Upon arriving at the building of the Cincinnati Weather Service Thermo noticed giant radar antenna, which were monitoring the storms outside of the building. Thermo peaked into an open window and saw humans scurrying like rats trying to make heads or tails of what was happening to the atmosphere. Some were examining reams of teletype maps. Others were frantically shouting into telephones. Still more were glued to radar monitors, which Thermo recognized from his time in Dr. Keeling’s lair. Surprising to Thermo, there were also giant “modern” computers, which Dr. Keeling also had, spinning spools of memory tape and giving off whirling, computer sounds. Thermo had no idea that other humans were just about as advanced as his maker. Upon looking at the sight Thermo became relieved and said to himself, “Whew, I don’t think that I need to do a thing. These humans are doing their best already to warn others of their kind.”
With that assessment, Thermo made haste to the Gulf Coast staying far away from Twisto’s mighty minions. Thermo was appalled to learn the next day that over 300 people had been killed, including some children, with extreme widespread damage covering many states. The human news reports indicated that 148 spawned versions of Twisto and Twista had been part of a great attack by The Clan of The Storms. Again, Thermo was very much saddened and became depressed that he could not do anything for the humans. Thermo had become very fond of two of the human children, Nicky and Sydney, when he had played and rescued Snowy, so he began to feel affection for all of mankind, plus it was one man, Dr. Keeling, who created him in the first place. It was time to return home to Dr. Keeling and get some advice/comfort from his father.
In the real world the April 3rd and 4th 1974 outbreak of Tornadoes was called the “Super Outbreak” and was one of the worst in the history of the U.S. There were thirty confirmed Fujita Scale 4 and 5 storms. To this date there is no real correlation between the number and intensity of tornadoes and global warming, although it would appear that tornado outbreaks are beginning to occur “out of season”. In other words, some tornadoes are occurring across areas which typically are too cold for storms given the time of the year. Such was recently the case with the November 17th, 2014 outbreak across Illinois and Indiana.
The real heroes of this story were the many men and women of the National Weather Service (which was called the Weather Bureau before 1970) along the path of the outbreak. The first weather radio broadcast was from Los Angeles in 1967. By the time of the “Super Outbreak” in 1973 there was a fairly large network of weather service offices broadcast forecasts, watches and warnings using radar. Many people were saved due to timely issuances of warnings in 1974, although it was not until the widespread use of Doppler radar after 1988 that warnings had a lot more lead time and were much more accurate. The spring 1974 outbreak convinced government authorities to plan and build the Doppler radar network, which saves many lives today.
The text and artwork are copyright Guy Walton.
Artwork is by my friend, Alyssa Josue.