[I was three-quarters asleep on the flight to Orlando this morning when I startled awake with the thought that I’d left the boodle stranded at the bottom of a “birther” kit. Very bad form. Won’t happen again.]

It looks too cloudy for a shuttle launch at this moment – I guess this is the remnant of the system that generated Wednesday’s tornadoes. What a nightmare for the folks in the path of those terrible storms. They weren’t elegant and sinuous funnel clouds, the tornadoes of movies, but rather were ugly, squat super-cells, moving like lawn mowers on auto­pilot, cutting down everything in their way. We aren’t likely to see anything like this again for a long time — decades, probably.

My uncle and cousin survived the super outbreak of April 3, 1974 – hunkering under a bench in the basement of their home in Xenia, Ohio. When they crawled up the stairs there was no house anymore.

Tornado destruction is different from hurricane destruction – houses don’t blow over, they explode.

It does seem like we’re living in the age of disasters. More people and more property are in the path of natural forces. You might invoke climate change, but that’s hard to nail down as a factor in a specific weather event. Let’s put it this way: Even if we all drove solar powered cars or rode our bikes everywhere we’d still be exposed to tornadic violence of this scale.

I’m giving a talk this afternoon and will find some way to weave in tornadoes, oil spills, nuclear power plant meltdowns, and various other disasters, all in the context of finding good information in this age of so much bad information. But if there’s one piece of good news in what happened Wednesday, it’s that the meteorologists did their job well, predicted the storms, and institutions in the path of disaster shut down and made sure people took cover.

Problem is, in the Deep South we don’t have basements, and if a monster twister hits you, it’s game over.

[Here’s the latest on the tornadoes, an update of the story I filed last night.]