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"TERRIBLE TUESDAY"... THE REAL STORY

When I was a child, I was terrified of tornadoes- and with good reason. My hometown was "ground zero" for one of the worst tornado outbreaks in North Carolina history. It was an event that determined my career path, and a memory that will always be with me. I'll be writing much more about the 1984 Carolina tornado outbreak in the coming weeks, but it suffices for the moment to say that severe weather was never far from my mind in elementary school.

Severe weather season is nearly upon us, and I can't help but recall those wonderful tornado drills at Carver Elementary School. Our school secretary would speak into the intercom system, the words "code red" crackling through the speakers. I never really understood why "code red" was uttered instead of "tornado warning", but no matter. The effect was the same. Students would file into the hallways, crouch along the baseboard of the halls, and cover their heads. Naturally, most of these drills were conducted in the spring. For a seasonal allergy sufferer like me, holding your head next to the floor and breathing in dust/floor cleaner was not fun. But those tornado drills were just as necessary then as they are today.

Another "rite of passage" for elementary school students was the annual spring viewing of "Terrible Tuesday" in the media center. In case you've never heard of this film before, imagine all of the frightening videos of car crashes they showed you in driver's education class, and simply substitute "weather" instead. "Terrible Tuesday" was a NOAA presentation about the famous Red River Valley tornado outbreak of 1979. Each year, our librarian would load up the old film projector (film canisters and all) and play "Terrible Tuesday" to a packed-house of students. And from the moment those lights went out and the swirling titles came on the screen, I was scared. It reminded me so much of my own experiences in deadly tornadoes.

Naturally, I "grew out" of my fear of bad weather. In fact, I became fascinated with severe storms (particularly tornadoes) and decided to pursue meteorology as a career. Still, a few years ago I started thinking about that old "Terrible Tuesday" video and decided to hunt it down. To my surprise, I found a link for the video itself posted on the website of the Norman (Oklahoma) office of the National Weather Service. I've included it below for your viewing pleasure. It's an amazing piece of history, and a reminder of the raw power of the tornado.

"Terrible Tuesday" video link: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/?n=events-19790410-multimedia

(SEND COMMENTS FOR JERRY TO jjackson@wwaytv3.com)

By: Jerry Jackson