Sunday, May 1, 2011

TO ALABAMA

Last month I wrote an entry in this blog entitled "TORNADO-PHOBIA".  I had just come back from a short trip to Alabama to visit my sister.  While I was there a small break out of tornadoes hit the edge of Tuscaloosa.  It caused a little damage but not a lot.

What interested me while I was there was how Alabama reacted to tornado watches and warnings.  A lot of the schools were let out early.  People stayed home.  The only thing you could get on television was a constant stream of weather reports and maps and radar images indicated where the storms were headed.  Most of the storms were simple thunderstorms.  The the small tornadoes did strike, television crews were out showing footage of a fallen tree.

This was what sparked my interest in writing "TORNADO-PHOBIA".  It reminded me of what it was like living in an area where tornadoes were more of a common occurrence than other parts of the country.  I had talked to my sister about this phenomenon and she quickly reminded me that over the last ten years or so, the southeastern  United States had more than their share of tornadoes.  She was right.  I thought back over the last several years and while the infamous midwest tornado alley was still active with a tornadoes , the quantity of tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Ohio were not near as many as they use to be when I was growing up.

Indeed, as I thought about it, tornado alley had appeared to move south so that Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolina's were receiving many more tornadoes than the traditional tornado alley.  Over the last ten years or so, the southeastern United States have been hit by an unimagined number of twisters, most of them small, a few of them larger, but still tornadoes seemed to be all over the southeast.  They were reacting to their recent history very much the same way the midwest had reacted to our history of tornadoes while I was growing up.  This was what inspired me to write about my growing up in a tornado infested place.

The current phobia of tornadoes in the south proved to be wise.  Last week a huge tornado, much like the one that hit my childhood home in the fifties, ripped through Tuscaloosa and other parts of Alabama leaving in it's wake a devastation that is beyond description.  As of this writing there have been thousands of injured, over three hundred dead and over four hundred still unaccounted for.  It has been listed now as the deadliest tornado in United States history.  Schools were destroyed, fire stations flattened, and churches completely gone.  If those schools and churches had been filled, the death toll would have surely been even higher than the tragic numbers already are.

Can you imagine what it would have been like had the people of Mississippi , Alabama and Georgia not been on full alert when a tornado warning sounded?  It would have been mind blowing.  I sat, like many Americans and watched film footage of the destruction on television.  What I saw broke my heart.  While Missouri is my true home and I love Missouri like no other place on earth, I consider Alabama my second home and I do dearly love the state  I have a sister, nephews and nieces down there as well as an Aunt and Uncle and several cousins and friends.  .  I feel at home in Alabama whenever I visit.

And so when I saw the devastation of my adopted state I hurt.  I was so thankful to God that all of my family and friends had survived but I felt sorrow for the whole of the situation.  My sister lost a few of her friends in the storm.  Many were killed in the rural areas outside of Tuscaloosa and many of those were poor people who did not have a choice of where to go or what action to take.  The path the tornado took through Tuscaloosa utterly flattened everything in it's reach.

The water plant was hit and so the residents had no water.  They turned off the natural gas supply for safety reason and so the residents did not have gas either.  Much of the industry was destroyed leaving hundreds of people out of work.  Hundreds of people were left homeless and jobless leaving them with no place to live and no where to go to work.

Alabama is made up of strong people though.  I respect these hard workers and almost immediately after the storm had gone through they began to rebuild.

The first step in rebuilding is to clean up what you can.  I am so proud of my nephew for stepping up and getting right to work in helping the cleanup of the greater Tuscaloosa area.  He runs heavy equipment and he has been working twenty hour days to rebuild his home, his city, his state.  I worry about him as he goes about his business.  I worry about uncovering things that I would rather him not have to deal with.  He is a very sensitive young man and he is vary caring.  I know that he is strong enough to handle anything that may come his way, but still I worry.

The tornado-phobia that Alabama had sensed before last week will increase tenfold after this.  This is a good thing.. Tornado-phobia is a good thing.  It is a life saver.  Tornadoes are like no other weather phenomenon that we have.  We can track hurricanes and predict hours before they hit when and where they will hit.  We can predict floods by weather systems up stream and how the levels of the rivers swell as they move down stream.

A tornado though is very unpredictable.   They are getting better and science is able to give people more of a warning of where a tornado may hit.  Still a tornado can drop from the sky at any moment anywhere.  It can drop and raise just as fast or it can drop and stay on the ground for miles upon miles.  It can be a few feet wide or a mile wide.   Being phobic about a tornado is not silly, it is common sense.  We don't fully understand the science of tornadoes yet and we can't predict them except to say that there is a good chance and for people to take cover just in case.  We should not mess with anything that is as powerful as a tornado when we don't understand it.

Alabama, our prayers are with you.  Any help we can offer is out here.  The country is behind you and will help you clean up and rebuild.  We will never forget the destruction and death left by this horrible storm.  You are a strong people and you will survive this.  The memory will never leave you though.

I love you Alabama.  You and your people are in my heart and in my mind and prayers.

May God bless all of you.

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