Carol and I were visiting our son, Jeremy, and his family in Oklahoma when my cell phone interrupted us. It was a tornado warning for Siloam Springs. We’ve received tornado warnings in the past and were thankful the storms passed over or around our town. But this time, it was different.
After midnight on October 21, 2019, an EF-2 tornado, accompanied by straight-line winds, hit Siloam Springs and a few other places in northwest Arkansas. An EF-2 can cause major damage.
The next day, our daughter-in-law, Angela, checked the news and found that up to nine tornados hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The worst of them was an EF-3. Soon, the topic of windstorms, especially tornados, prompted a discussion among the grandkids.
When one of the granddaughters learned that these circular winds can pick up cars, rip roofs off buildings, topple trucks, and pick up and splinter houses, she asked, “Grandpa, how does a tornado pick up huge things like cars and houses?”
Aha! A teachable moment, and five or six grandkids were close by.
“Gloria, what’s the name of the machine that cleans your carpets?”
“Right. And what does it do?”
“It picks up dirt.”
“Right, again. The roller with brushes on it is sometimes called a beater. The roller turns almost 6,500 times a minute. That’s about 108 turns a second. But the machine also has a fan that sucks in air. So, when the roller and brushes vibrate the carpet and shake the dirt loose, the machine pulls loose dirt in with the air. If the vacuum hits a piece of mud, the mud usually breaks apart and the vacuum sucks up the pieces. Small rocks can’t break apart, so the vacuum just swallows them.”
“That gets loud. But how does a tornado pick up cars or houses?”
“I’m getting there. Does your mama have a blender?”
“When you turn it on, what happens?”
“It chops up food, spins it, and makes it into a liquid.”
“What does it look like as it’s spinning?”
“It pulls the food down in the center and pushes it up on the sides.”
“Right. A tornado does that but upside down. A tornado is like a huge blender but without the blades. The powerful force of the wind and change of air pressure – vacuum – are what tear things apart. Now, let’s put this all together.
Tornados are like a combination of upside-down blenders and right-side-up vacuums. Vacuum heads are only 8-16 inches wide and can pick up dirt, sand, pennies, little rocks, socks, things like that. But a tornado can be as small as 500 feet wide or as large as several miles wide. They create winds as slow as 80-miles-per-hour, or over 300-miles-per-hour. And they can pick up things that weigh several tons.
“When a tornado hits a car, the car is like a rock and doesn’t break apart. So, the wind moves the car and the vacuum sucks it up. It’ll get banged up, thrown around, and most of the time it’s destroyed. When a tornado hits a house or building, the wind normally tears it apart like a vacuum cleaner breaks up a piece of mud. The tornado sucks up the pieces of buildings and sends them several yards and sometimes miles away. But once in a while, a gentle part of the tornado – that sounds funny – picks up an entire house without shattering it. The house moves sideways for several feet or is turned around without breaking up.”
“But the plumbing and electrical system has to be repaired.”
“You got it. The power of the wind breaks the house loose from the footing, and the upside-down blender suction picks it up and turns it. However, even though the house might look mostly fine, it might have to be rebuilt anyway because of internal damage.”
That brief, over-simplified explanation satisfied the grandkids’ curiosity.
But tornados of other kinds, such as death in the family, loss of job, poor health, breakup of a marriage, can tear up our lives. We might appear to be fine, but we are broken up on the inside, and simple explanations don’t help. A counselor might help us cope, and friends can help us recover; but only God can help us heal.
Don’t be afraid to ask the Lord for help. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (NLT). Jesus gave his life for you. Turn to Him and trust Him in the turbulence of your life.