July 27, 2018

Just Saying…

By Q.C. Jones

Tornados, Tomatoes and Tomorrow

As I prepared for this month’s post, my mind was distracted by the surge of news related to the horrible tornados striking Iowa in recent days. It appears as though Iowa was struck not by one or two but a whopping 27 tornados on July 19th. The communities of Marshalltown and Pella both managed to find their way into the storms’ path. Homes, businesses and even the clock tower of the 130-year-old Marshall County Courthouse took a hard right to the chin from old Mother Nature.  Thankfully, no one was killed in the storm-induced wreckage, but it appears a dozen or so were injured. We wish them a speedy recovery and hope they don’t mind us taking a slightly twisted look at twisters.

America the land of plenty

It seems like the news is full of pessimistic reports covering Americans as the selfish super consumers of the world.  For example, these sneering reports state we Americans represent four percent of the world’s population yet use nearly 17 percent of the planet’s energy.  The same applies to automobiles where we own 25 percent of the earth’s vehicles.

Further, we are not so blessed in the tornado category.  According to Tom Grazulis, a noted tornado researcher, a full 75 percent of the world’s tornadoes occur in the United States.  He goes further to share this little bit of trivia. Many of the twisters developing outside of America are small and weak, but at least 40 other countries have been hit by severe tornadoes that produced severe damage and numerous fatalities.

Coming back to U.S. statistics, 1,224 (average 1991-2015) tornadoes touch down in our country each year. While Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma hold the top three spots, Illinois rates number six and Iowa comes in at number eight on the twister hit parade. While nearly everyone in Kansas will swear on a stack of Bibles that they live in “tornado alley” the data doesn’t quite agree with the whole “alley” concept.

Twenty-plus years of data done by Harold Brooks, who got his PHD from the dear old University of Illinois, indicates tornadoes are found in a C-shaped area from Illinois to the High Plains and south to Texas. The maximum tornadoes days actually occur in Colorado and Central Florida.

According to the fine folks at USTornadoes.com, our recent outbreak of 27 tornadoes on a single day is not a world record for Iowa.  The record for tornado outbreaks on a single day for Iowa is 28. Just to drive a little state rivalry, Illinois outscore us with 39 tornadoes in a single day. By the way, Iowa and Illinois have a combined geography of 110,000 square miles, while Texas is 261,000 square miles. Our Illinois and Iowa combined tornado hits on a single day equals 67 tornadoes. Texas has 66. And, we have less than half of the geography. I believe this factoid kind of blows the famous “Texas Tornado” song out of the weather station.

A couple of final points in the Tornado department. The biggest tornado month for both Illinois and Iowa is April. In Oklahoma City where basements are nearly non-existent, between 10-15 percent of the homes have tornado shelters.  Contrast this number with 1.4 percent which is the number of homes with a fall-out shelter in 1962. Could it be people are 10 times more concerned with tornadoes and nuclear holocaust?


Besides tornadoes, the tomato, or at least tomato plant, has made neighborhood headlines. One of the latest wind gusts to hit the Quad-Cities knocked over the gigantic tomato plants growing between our house and the neighbor’s. The plants have gone into hyper-growth mode and are spreading their branches across nearly half of the drive and the fruits of their labor are ripening and turning red. August will deliver a bumper crop of fruit… legally vegetable… here’s the controversy.

Back in 1893, the US Supreme Court had some extra time on their hands. They were presented with the Legal Case of Nix vs. Hedden.  John Nix founded the John Nix & Co. fruit commission in New York City in 1839. The company became one of the largest sellers of produce in New York City and was one of the first companies to ship produce from Virginia, Florida, and Bermuda to New York. In 1883, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, requiring a tax to be paid on imported vegetables, but not fruit. Mr. Hedden was the collector of the tax.

Tomatoes are defined as a fruit, at least by the laws of science and biologically. However, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to classify them as a vegetable, thus proving, as one contemporary put it, “The Supreme Court has the power to overrule the laws of science and Mother Nature.”  Since this law has been in effect for over a century, we probably shouldn’t invest money in a new ruling.


They say, “There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.” Thinking tornadoes, nuclear incidents or getting run over by a turnip truck, we are better to make the most of today. With this thought in mind, a big old cheeseburger with a thick slice of tomato sounds good today. I am heading to the grill right now.  Just saying…


Filed Under: Humor