Tornadoes, hurricanes and whirlwinds, oh my

By: Tom Rupp
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As we slug through the throes of the midsummer's nightmarish heat, look at other areas of our expansive land and be grateful.

I heard on the radio (my main source of news these recent months) that a slew of tornadoes ploughed through Iowa, wreaking destruction and even death.

Being an east-coaster by birth, this news report brought back scary memories. On the other coast, and the flatlands in between, the possibility constantly exists that the ominously darkened sky will conspire to unite and form a quorum of clouds.

We call them “tornadoes.” We don’t see them much, if at all, on this coast. Perhaps you have seen those shows where people actually chase these things. In 1971, Harry Nilsson had a song titled “Jump Into the Fire,” and these daredevils probably use it as their soundtrack.

No, if most of us “normal” people see a funnel cloud, we run the other way, or go ducking into a basement or bathtub.

Wikipedia says that the word “tornado” is a derivative of the Spanish “tronada,” meaning “thunderstorm.” The opening tornado scene was always one of the scariest parts of “The Wizard of Oz” for me as a child.

The word “tornado” does not appear in the King James Version of the Bible. Nor “cyclone” or “twister.” However, once you start talking about the “whirlwind” you are in Biblical territory.

In Job 38:1 God answered Job out of the whirlwind. In 2 Kings 2 Elijah went to heaven on a fiery chariot with the help of a whirlwind. Of the 25 verses where the word occurs, 17 of them are in the prophets, and none in the New Testament.

As best as I can tell, it shows up twice in the Koran and three times in Shakespeare.

The closest thing in the New Testament is the “rushing mighty wind” in Acts 2:2. But that swirling, twirling mass of dust, dirt, destruction and death we call the tornado? It is nowhere to be found, except in the Midwest and southeast United States.

The tornado has a big brother too – the hurricane, another east coast predominance. Hurricanes never visit us out here, to which we all together say one huge “Thank You!”

So while we tough out high temperatures and deal with our own fiery issues out here, remember our brothers and sisters eastward. They’re dealing with the real thing, the real windy thing.

Tom Rupp is a resident of Folsom and a weekly columnist in the Folsom Telegraph. You can reach him at