Dear Paul

Expert answers to your most pressing questions

I have terrible allergies this time of year. Is there anything I can do—besides moving—to make the situation bearable? I feel your pain. I’ve done a fair amount of sneezing, too. We’re experiencing a drier-than-average spring, which doesn’t help. Rain cleanses the air, sucking pollutants, including pollen, into the ground. An absence of rain equals more red, watering eyes. There is no shortage of medication on the market, of course, but some of these drugs will leave you groggy. Mild allergies can be treated with natural remedies, and the herb butterbur is getting a lot of attention these days. As with all things medical, however, check with your doctor before you take anything.

Is there any reason I shouldn’t swat every mosquito that crosses my path? Do they have any redeeming qualities? There will probably never be a Save The Mosquito Foundation, but the insects do serve a purpose. They pollinate some plants, and they provide a tasty snack for fish, birds, bats, frogs, and turtles, playing an important role in the food cycle. That said, mosquito-borne malaria has killed off a sizeable chunk of the human population since the Stone Age, so feel free to take out the next one that lands on your arm. You’re not likely to see them on the endangered-species list anytime soon.

People always joke about tornadoes hitting trailer parks, but I’m more curious about what they miss. Why don’t you ever hear of a tornado touching down in the middle of a major city? Be assured, twisters can cross rivers, lakes, and hills—and city centers. In fact, it’s not uncommon. There have been direct strikes in downtown St. Louis, Fort Worth, Little Rock, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and Miami. The Oklahoma City metropolitan area alone has been struck by tornadoes at least 112 times since 1890! In short, don’t assume you’re safe from a tornado just because you live in downtown Minneapolis. Trust me, I’m a weatherman.

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