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Jim Stubblefield, of Norman, Okla., raises a tattered flag he found while helping his sister salvage items from her tornado-ravaged home Tuesday in Moore, Okla. | Charlie Riedel~AP

BY THOMAS CONNER

We were shakin' in our beds that night ...
-- The Call, "Oklahoma"

I never made it to my undergrad commencement ceremony -- because I was cowering in a basement.

The sky darkened outside my garage apartment as I ate breakfast on May 8, 1993, in Norman, Okla. When the clouds turned from their familiar deathly grey to that telltale sickly green, I called my folks and told them not to drive down from the city. By the time I hung up the phone, my landlord in the adjoining house was knocking frantically on the door. "You'd better get down here with us," she said. "You're not safe up here."

Born and raised in Oklahoma City, I've spent many an afternoon and evening sheltering like this. I've crouched in bathtubs and basements, huddled in hallways and high schools. I've been bored and terrified, often simultaneously. But I've been blessed -- tornadoes have gotten so close but stayed, thankfully, so far from me and my loved ones.

As a kid, of course, tornadoes can seem wondrous. I remember pressing my face against our front-door glass around age 7, watching a faint funnel dance its way along Grand Boulevard in Oklahoma City, just a few blocks away. The next day, we drove the boulevard and saw the huge old trees uprooted, the park swings knotted, the monkey bars toppled. Around age 12, upon hearing reports of twisters in the area of our home in Edmond, an OKC suburb, my father and I stood in our cul-de-sac, taking advantage of its clear views to scan the horizon for dipping funnels. My mother occasionally stamped onto the front porch to cuss at us and threaten that she wouldn't mourn if both us fools got swept away.

A deadly tornado hit suburban Oklahoma City on Monday. A quick look at some basic facts:

Q. Is global warming to blame?

A. You can't blame a single weather event on global warming. In any case, scientists just don't know whether there will be more or fewer twisters as global warming increases. Tornadoes arise from very local conditions, and so they're not as influenced by climate change as much as larger weather systems like hurricanes and nor'easters. They're not easy to incorporate in the large computer simulations scientists use to gauge the impact of global warming.

And when scientists ponder the key weather ingredients that lead to twisters, there's still no clear answer about whether to expect more or fewer twisters. Some scientists theorize that the jet stream is changing because sea ice in the Arctic is shrinking. And the jet stream pattern drives weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

Q. How does this tornado season stack up against previous ones?

A. The season got off to a quiet start this year. Typically, there are more during spring, and the numbers dwindle in the worst heat of the summer. An unusually cool spring kept the funnel clouds at bay until mid-May this year. The last two seasons illustrate the extremes in tornado activity. In 2011, the United States saw its second-deadliest tornado season. Last year, it was busy in April but there were few twisters after that.

Q. What happened in Oklahoma?

A. The tornado destroyed an elementary school and flattened neighborhoods with winds up to 200 miles an hour. The National Weather Service made a preliminary ranking of the twister as an EF4, the second-most-powerful classification.

Q. How did it form?

A. Like the most destructive and deadly tornadoes, this one came from a rotating thunderstorm. The thunderstorm developed in an area where warm moist air rose into cooler air. Winds in the area caused the storm to rotate, and that rotation promoted the development of a tornado.

Associated Press

A look at the Chicago area flooding from Chicago Sun-Times reporters and photographers:

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Inmates bag sand to help with flood preparation in Lake County. | Lake County Sheriff

According to a news release from the Lake County Sheriff:

On April 17, 2013 nine jail inmates filled sandbags for over six hours.

Lake County Emergency Management Agency requested volunteers to assist in a sandbag filling operation.

Community Based Corrections Center Inmates were eligible to volunteer. These inmates are nonviolent offenders who typically spend their days seeking employment, working outside of the jail, and/or attending treatment programs.

Convicted sex offenders are not eligible to participate.

It has been a common practice of the Lake County Sheriff's Office Corrections Division to allow inmates to assist in emergency preparedness and other community assistance. Next week inmates are scheduled to clean up litter in a Lake County community.

The snow hits Chicago's morning commute

A look at how the winter storm Saturn - if you buy into the new trend of naming these things - dumped on rush hour in Chicago on Tuesday morning.

Storified by Craig Newman· Tue, Mar 05 2013 08:07:03

Snow. Chicago. CTA. There you have it. #chicagogramCraig Newman
#winter #sky #silhouette #chicago #chitown #cloudporn #cloudscapes #cloudy #blizzard ##trees #oak #dawn #nature #forestpreserve #landscape #descending #rqj #road #snow #yabtl #path #endoftheroad #golfcourse #picoftheday #icy #icloud #iphone5ROB Q.
#instagramers #instagramer #instagramhub #bestagram #primeshots #iphonesia #iphoneonly #igers #instadaily #igerschicago #instagood #ignation #instahub #instaphoto #chicago #igaddicts #igmania #instamania #bestoftheday #imageoftheday #picoftheday #photooftheday #snowDave
Snow globe-y on Michigan Ave #chicagogramMatt Lindner
Begin... #chicago #distractyourfaceJames Richards IV
And, snow...Cole Hodgin
It's snowing in #Chicago! Photo by @photojeskos #winter #snow #chicagogram #winternstormsaturnChicago Sun-Times
Footprints in the snow pointing into the gym. #everydayistrainingdayWorld Gym - Pilsen
welcome to Chicago ✌ #chicago #snowday #random #likeJessica G.
Come at me, blizzard. #snow #chicagogram #uptownjmjoyce
The obligatory snow-from-the-office pic. (Tired of this one yet?) They're calling for 8" today! #snow #chicagogramAdam Evans
Start of something... #chicago #distractyourfaceJames Richards IV
Another panic attack... #chicagopeopleonplatforms
The third rail can ice up? #cta #chicagogramCraig Newman
#WillisTower obscured by falling #snow. Could this become Chicago's #Frankenstorm? Cold outside but we're about to get hot with another @bravemonk #zumba class.World Gym - Pilsen
Preparing for @paulkonrad @wgnnews weather forecast #downtown #chicago #loop #chigram #chicagogram #iphonegramMike Baker
The Blemont Fire Escape #chicago #cta #city #snow #snowday #winter #belmont #patgriffinPat Griffin
Near the front gate #chicago #city #cta #snow #fletcher #winter #snowdayPat Griffin
Let it snow, I guess. #chicago #cta #downtown #60601 #train #snow #city #chitownTricialynn Moralís
Snow and trains. #citylife #chicago #architecture #cta #ctalines #weather #blizzardMicah Pfeiffer
#chicago #igerschicago #cta #winter #trainBrian Jorgensen
#chicago #cta #igerschicago #winter #trains #snow #vanishingpointBrian Jorgensen
#chicago #cta #igerschicago #snow #winterBrian Jorgensen
Wells Street Bridge construction continues with the added South end main segment attached to the hinge that allows the bridge to lift up. #CTA #Chicagonicholasjnorman
Snowy wait for @cta Brown Line shuttle bus. #wellsreact #wellsbridge #chicagogramCraig Newman
#wall of #snow #chicago #commutesucks #wetass #roofsnowmenafterwork #woooooobloodgutsyo
Beautiful #elmhurst #college #snowTaylor Baxter
#snow #chicagoAndrew Schwarm
#snow #moresnow#nomoresnow #depaul #fullerton #chicagoBlake Cardenas
It's an alley, in #Chicago, with snow. Thought I'd share.bobsaysdrink

Winter storm Saturn - really, when did we start naming them? - hit Chicago just in time for the morning rush Tuesday. The gallery above shows what Chicagoans are seeing, and sharing via Instagram and social media. This gallery will show you what Sun-Times photographers are finding in hopefully winter's last hurrah.

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The snow starts to fall in downtown Chicago. Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | Brian Jackson~ Sun-Times

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Michael R. Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

Chances are you are well aware of the approaching snow, especially if you're active on Twitter. There are people freaking out, there are people freaking out about freaking out, people excited, people not so much, etc. Everyone has an opinion on the weather and if it is or isn't a big deal. But today's snow is sort of important. It's set to snap the city's longest-recorded snowless streak (over 290 days since our last measurable snow) and with high winds expected, conditions could make traveling quite treacherous as people start to make their way out of town for the holiday. So it's been a while, is what I'm saying, and with that, there may be a need to re-acclimate yourself with certain aspects of Chicago winter.

For instance, here's a nifty interactive map that shows you where the city's 2-inch and overnight park ban are in effect and another interactive map below that shows the 2-inch route bans. (If you're a more text-oriented person, we've got some embedded PDFs at the bottom.)

There's also the city's fun Plow Tracker which will kick in once the snow hits the ground with live-tracking of plows out on the route.

If you're flying out, this map from the FAA shows many delays but it's still best to check with your airline.

As for traffic, here's an updated Google Map of current traffic conditions.

And that's it. Chances are you've done this before so there's no need to worry. And if this is your first snow in Chicago, don't worry, you'll be fine.

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Rich Hein/Sun-Times


Here are some of the stories that caught our attention during the work day for November 27, 2012.

• Stuff got real when then Blue Line had a major malfunction earlier today, the second straight day the line had experienced significant delays. And it comes a day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters during a press conference that if commuters didn't like the new higher pass rates for the CTA, they could just drive. While the comment has been taken out of context and blown out of proportion a little bit, it still reeks of tone-deafness, particularly given the number of slow zones and CTA construction issues that already exist. [Sun-Times; Gapers Block]

• Christopher Vaughn, found guilty of murdering his entire family earlier this year, was sentenced to four life sentences today for the crimes. [Sun-Times]

• The Florida man accused of stabbing a Bears fan visiting Jacksonville for the Bears-Jags game earlier this fall now has a March trial date. [FOX 32]

• A Sun-Times investigation shows that a guy who sells t-shirts that say "Boobies Rock" is - shockingly- actually just defrauding those who think they're contributing to a charity. [Sun-Times]

• The latest gun control battle: Illinois and concealed carry because we don't have enough gun problems. [WBEZ]

• For once, an alderman wants to put a vote on hold after last-second information was introduced into a three-tower development in Wolf Point. No idea where this thinking was a few years ago on the parking meter vote. [Sun-Times]

• Harley-Davidson's River North spot is being stalked by Shake Shack because heaven forbid this city ever get a damn Waffle House. [Crain's]

• In Soviet Russia, airplane rides YOU from Midway to Branson to see Yakov Smirnoff. [Chicagoist]

• The night Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones formed the Voltron of blues at Checkerboards Lounge. [Sun-Times]

• BRIGHT ONE: Rick Morrissey says no Heisman for Notre Dame's defensive star Manti Te'o. [Sun-Times]

• TO DO: Sudoku; Weather (In a word: chilly); Transit (in a word: clear ... for now)

• FINALLY: The Chinese obviously didn't learn their lesson years ago from that "retractable Capitol Hill dome" story. The Onion has once again duped a Chinese paper, this time the Communist Party's The People's Daily which congratulated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as being named The Onion's "Sexiest Man Alive." [Yahoo!; The Onion]

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John Ackerman inspects harvested pumpkins on his farm Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 in Morton, Ill. Unlike other farmers this year, pumpkin growers have plenty to show during the nation's worst drought in decades, and the reason is pretty simple- pumpkins do well in dry weather. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

The U.S. Drought Monitor released it's latest results Wednesday and, despite storms and rain around much of the country, there is still a severe drought problem in the United States.

In fact, the Drought Monitor shows that about 60 percent of the lower 48 states are in some form of drought, with only the Northeast and a swatch along the Appalachians - and the Pacific Northwest - escaping the driest of conditions.

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Sesame Street/Children's Television Workshop photo

Big Bird has had a rough month.

After becoming a cause celebre after being targeted by Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate, the yellow fellow's name has been kicked around way too often as part of President Obama's successful presidential campaign - see this attack ad to get an idea in case you've been under Big Bird's nest the last few weeks.

But just as the political turmoil began to calm down, Hurricane Sandy's wrath kicked up. On Friday, Sesame Street will air an episode dedicated to the devastation wrought by the October superstorm when it hit portions of the East Coast. In it, Big Bird's nest is destroyed and the characters work through how to deal with losing a home and living with a disaster.

From the Sesame Street Tumblr blog:

On Friday, we'll be airing a very special episode of Sesame Street.

A hurricane has swept through Sesame Street and everyone is working together to clean up the neighborhood. When Big Bird checks on his home, he is heartbroken to find that the storm has destroyed his nest. Big Bird's friends and neighbors gather to show their support and let him know they can fix his home, but it will take time. While everyone on Sesame Street spends the next few days cleaning up and making repairs, Big Bird still has moments where he is sad, angry, and confused. His friends help him cope with his emotions by talking about what happened, drawing pictures together, and giving him lots of hugs. They also comfort Big Bird by offering him temporary places he can eat, sleep, and play. Big Bird remembers all the good times he had at his nest and realizes that once it is rebuilt, there are more good times and memories to come. Finally the day has come where most of the repairs to Big Bird's home are done and his nest is complete. As he is about to try it out, though, the city nest inspector says it not safe, yet, because the mud isn't dry. Big Bird is sad that he has to wait another day, but Snuffy comes to the rescue and blows the nest dry and he passes the test! Big Bird thanks everyone for being his friend and helping to rebuild his nest and his home.

You can find your local listing information here.

Big Bird, though, is not the first Streeter to attempt to help kids come to grips with the trauma and terror associated with living through a storm like Sandy. Elmo has already done his part to soothe nerves during an interview on WNYC:


To help those affected by Sandy, check out this Red Cross site.

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Streets are flooded under the Manhattan Bridge in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, N.Y., Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Sandy continued on its path Monday, as the storm forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain.
(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

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