LAST CALL: Tornado-torn city would like to take focus off weather

What's a town to do when it's best known for bad weather?

What's a town to do when it's best known for bad weather?

This became a key question in the recent mayoral race for Wichita Falls, TX - although it could be said that the town's figureheads themselves are partly to blame for the city's less-than-perfect reputation.

The rough-hewn former mayor, who fell asleep during a meeting in sister city Furstenfeldbruck, Germany, certainly didn't help the city's image, and his replacement, Mayor William Altman, also got into some hot water over a highly publicized involvement in a debate over gay-themed children's library books.

But maybe the city of 104,000 wouldn't show up on anyone's Doppler radar elsewhere (most Wichita Falls-bashing comes from in-state sources, like Texas Monthly and King of the Hill), except for the three times it's been hit by killer tornadoes in the last half century.

Yes, forget about unpersonable mayors. The weather is the thing, Mayor Altman claims. While citizens seem to have accepted their brutal treatment by Mother Nature (the city's August bicycle race is called the Hotter'n Hell Hundred, and the local YMCA hosts the Tornado Alley Racquetball Tournament), Altman claims the fuss is exaggerated. "A few weeks ago, the National Weather Service came out with a study of tornado-prone sites, and Wichita Falls was not in the top 10, he defended.

"When I hear phrases like Tornado Alley, subconsciously, that's not a positive thought, Altman laments. "We need to come up with thoughts, phrases, and ideas that connote all the good things about Wichita Falls, like family values, low unemployment, and the fact that its water tastes a lot better than neighboring Midland's.

Suggestions may be sent to the mayor at city hall. But think twice about sending letters, as while "neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night will stop our mail, the USPS doesn't mention twisters ...

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