I think Mother Nature hates me.
Seriously, she’s had it in for me for as long as I can remember. Maybe that’s why I’ve become a bit of a (paranoid) weather geek over the years.
The evidence is just too clear to ignore: There was a tornado warning on the night of my high school graduation in Indianapolis, and a few short months later, myself and dozens of others were trapped inside our dormitory on the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, the result of brutal north winds mixed with an equally fierce blizzard. When I looked out my third-floor window that morning and saw snow drifted to less than 8 feet below the ledge, I knew we were in trouble.
After leaving North Dakota in November 1989, I thought Mother Nature and I had made amends and were starting fresh, but she slapped me right back to reality.
I struggled through two rainy seasons in the Philippines, where it poured every day for six months straight. You’d think that was pretty tough for a Midwestern boy, but things only got worse.
In July 1990, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake rocked the northern Philippines, killing several thousand folks, and at 21 years old, it was quite the shock to document that for the Air Force.
That earthquake, in turn, caused the June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. It certainly didn’t help that it was situated only a scant eight miles from Clark Air Base, where I was stationed.
The whole experience was fascinating, but incredibly scary as well. Because thousands of lives were at stake, I was tasked with flying around the mountain daily with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey to document everything going on for the Air Force. I’ll never forget standing a couple miles from the summit as telemetry equipment was being installed and watching the crew working nervously. A seismologist told our helicopter pilot to keep the engine running, because otherwise, if the mountain erupted, we’d all be dead in less than a minute. No doubt, that became a watershed moment in my life.
Five years in Idaho with no appreciable weather disasters gave me confidence Mother Nature’s spat with me was over ... and then I moved to Southeast Missouri. Anyone who’s been here for a while knows what we’ve seen since, whether it’s been tornadoes, major floods, extended droughts and pretty much everything in between.
You’d probably expect me to be one of those people who rushes outside to see the coming storm, and you’d be right most of the time, but here’s fair warning: if you see me intently watching the sky for any length of time and throwing Mother Nature the stink-eye, you might think about vacating the area.
Without question, the ol’ gal still likes to play games. And without a doubt, she still hates me.