Over the past two months, however, we've been forced to take notice. The devastation has been remarkable.
Joplin. Tuscaloosa. Oklahoma City. Raleigh. Those cities and their environs have absorbed terrible blows. The spring of 2011 has developed into one of this nation's deadliest tornado seasons. About 500 lives have been lost.
Because my daughter Jade — born and raised in Newport-Mesa — moved with her husband and four children to North Carolina a number of years ago, I've become a Weather Channel "regular."
Most Californians needn't ever consult this niche broadcast network. Our forecast is usually: "Another lovely day in paradise!"
But that's not the case once you've traveled east of Lake Mead.
Jade and her family live in a small town 40 miles east of Raleigh, N.C. Her community is a magnet for tornadoes. Though clearly not as active as areas in Kansas and Oklahoma, her ZIP code has been tagged "Tornado Alley" by local residents.
Two years ago a young boy was killed two miles from Jade's home when a twister hit his grandmother's residence. Last year, a tornado demolished four houses a mile from Jade's.
I've been there under tornado conditions, and it's scary. The air is so thick you can cut it with a knife. The atmosphere is charged. The sky turns an ominous black, and it can hail in July.
My 87-year-old mother was raised in Kansas and tells tornado tales from her youth. But she doesn't recall 1930s tornado activity equaling what we've seen recently.
On April 16, Jade called my wife, Hedy, and I in California to inform us they were under a "tornado warning."
A warning is a notification that a tornado has been spotted or picked up by radar. I immediately switched on the Weather Channel.
Jade has experienced numerous tornado warnings in the seven years she's lived in North Carolina, but this one proved particularly vexing. Twenty-eight tornadoes ended up being identified in the state that day.