Shortly after moving from the East Coast to Chicago, I learned that tornado watches can be issued several times in a week during a period of bad weather. Two days ago, when the tornado devastated Joplin, we were under a tornado watch for several hours, and warnings were issued for a few specific locations in Northern Illinois.
A tornado watch means conditions are ripe for tornado formation. A warning means that a funnel cloud has been spotted in the area. As my readers living anywhere in the middle part of the United States know, the chances of actually being a victim of a devastating tornado are quite slim.
The last deadly tornado to hit this area touched down in suburban Plainfield in 1990. In the years after that one, I saw several survivors with PTSD symptoms in my suburban office, which was not far from Plainfield. The stories were terrifying. I can't even begin to imagine what those unfortunate people in Joplin are going through.
But from late spring, through the summer and into the early fall, watches and warnings are so frequent that no one even mentions it. You can't run to the basement or hide in a closet every time one is issued.