Whenever the movie “Twister” is on I watch it. I don’t know why; I have seen it so many times and I know it stretched reality for the purpose of the story but I just can’t stop watching.

For those who have not seen this 1996 film, written by Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin and directed by Jan de Bont, the film follows a group of tornado chasers. One team is led by Helen Hunt’s character Jo Harding and her estranged husband Bill (portrayed by Bill Paxton). The more financially sponsored team is led by Dr. Jonas Miller, portrayed by Cary Elwes.

There was criticism when the film was released about its depiction of what is a tornado. I am always wary of those types of criticisms because this was a movie not a documentary; however, this film, from my point of view, really captured the fear and fascination of a tornado. The tornado, especially the last one of the film, was made into a true monster in the dark.

The characters spoke about an F5 tornado, the Moby Dick of twisters that “just one of us saw,” according to Bill Harding. He was talking about Jo.

According to the National Weather Service, “When tornado-related damage is surveyed, it is compared to a list of Damage Indicators and Degrees of Damage, which help estimate the range of wind speeds the tornado likely produced. From that, a rating from Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale) 0 to EF5 is assigned.”

An EF Scale sees three-second wind gusts from an EF0 at 65 to 85 mph to an EF5 that has winds over 200 mph.

I am from Iowa and tornadoes were a part of life. During school we had tornado drills, like here there are earthquake drills. A couple of kids in the classroom would be assigned to slightly open the windows prior to hurrying to the basement. The thought – back then – was to open the windows to counteract the pressure of the coming tornado. This is no longer the practice; a tornado is going to blast through a window no matter what. However, when I was in school and was the kid assigned the job of windows it was a job that was taken seriously. When I lived there my town never saw a tornado touch down in the town limits; however, several towns around us were devastated by tornadoes that ripped through neighborhoods.

I have seen what a tornado can do. It looks like a bomb had gone off with pieces of houses and barns scattered across fields. However, I understand the fascination that was so well done by the writers and actors in “Twister.” What I think they missed, though, was the real quiet before the storm.

Before the storm you noticed a lack of chirping birds, the leaves in the trees turned a funny yellow/green color and it really does seem like time stopped. I used to love this time before the smaller storms when you smelled the rain coming. It made me feel small as the power of Mother Nature was all around. But the quiet only lasted a short time as soon everyone was running home making sure all lawn furniture was secured before making their way to the basement.

Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” there have been people and animals that survived tornadoes. In 2006, Matt Suter was sucked up into a EF2 tornado and thrown 1,307 feet in the Missouri Ozark. He was knocked unconscious by a piece of furniture as he was pulled into the twister so he doesn’t remember the ride – only that he woke up in a grassy field about a quarter of a mile away from his house.

One part of the film showed a cow being carried by a twister. This actually happens. In Elgin, Texas in 2017 it was reported that several cows and one bull survived being carried by a tornado over a quarter of a mile. The cattle were tossed over fences into the next pasture; all were knocked unconscious and only one cow had an injury – a hurt leg.

We have often heard about “Tornado Alley,” an area of the Great Plains in the area of eastern Kansas and Oklahoma. This area is where tornadoes are frequently seen; however, more areas that are not normally tornado prone are having to deal with these twisters.

Multiple studies find that the conditions that produce the most severe thunderstorms from which tornadoes may form are more likely as the world warms. Climate change may be causing a shift not only in a severity of the storms but also their frequency in more regions.

According to NOAA, a study published recently in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science by Vittorio A. Gensini of Northern Illinois University and Harold E. Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory looked into the possibility that tornado frequencies are changing across the U.S. Their findings include a decrease in the traditional “Tornado Alley” of the Great Plains and an increase in the Southeast’s “Dixie Alley.” The study found increases in tornado reports and tornado environments in portions of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.

LA County has had several small tornadoes, according to the Almanac – about 46 tornadoes have been reported since 1950, most of them small. But in 1966 and 1983 there were rather large tornadoes that caused injuries and property damage. The 1983 tornado went through South LA causing 30 injuries and nine deaths. I remember that tornado; I was on the 110 Freeway near South LA when we heard the report.

Who knows? As the Earth warms we may all be participating in tornado drills.

No storms are expected in the near future for our area; some winds may happen today and Friday with gusts up to 15 mph. The weekend temperatures will be in the high 70s and on Monday night through Tuesday we will have patchy fog.