Tuesday, May 21, 2013

OKLAHOMA TWISTER TRAGEDY

Every spring they come out of the clouds.  We never know where they are going to land.  Most of these terrors of the sky strike rural areas, but it seems like more often over the last four or five years they have been finding suburbia and cities to land in and they show no mercy.

Two years ago two towns that are pretty close to my heart were struck within weeks of each other.  Tuscaloosa, Alabama where I have spent a great deal of time visiting with family was struck hard.  A few days after that Joplin, Missouri which rests in southern Missouri right down the highway from Kansas City was devastated by one of these monsters.

As I have written a few times before, these tornadoes chill me right down to the bone.  I was raised in a tornado stricken suburban area and my whole life growing up was to spend the spring time preparing for another strike.  Many hours were spent in the basement during the spring time as tornado warnings and watches were released from the National Weather Service.  As a kid, just the mention of the word "tornado" would send me searching for cover.

Growing up in tornado alley gives you a special education.  You can feel it in the air if a tornado may be making a visit soon.  The heavy humidity, the winds churning up varying in speed from minute to minute.  The slightly green hue of the sky as you watch the clouds move quickly across the sky is eerie in and of itself.  Heavy rains come. blowing almost horizontal followed by hail that sounds like the little ice particles that range anywhere from pea size to baseball size  are trying to break into your house through the roof.  The sudden stop of the rain as all goes calm followed by a sudden cooling of the temperatures outside mixing with that fresh smell of rain just having passed.  The rain returning more softly this time as it seems to signal that the danger has passed.  In reality though, you never know if the danger has truly passed.  It could churn itself back up into a frenzy at any second.

The thing about about tornadoes is that if you haven't experienced one, the gut reaction is like any other kind of tragedy.  It happens everywhere else, but it won't happen here.  Then once it does happen "here" you carry with you the thought that it can happen here, and probably will.  There are few places that have been hit by multiple disasters in varying years though.  They will come close to the same area maybe, but actually hit the same place twice?  It doesn't seem to be the case in the history of a tornado.  Unless you live in Moore, Oklahoma.

Moore, Oklahoma is a small town of about 56,000 people.  They were hit by one of the largest tornadoes I have ever heard described.  It tore through the tiny town leaving a path two miles wide and seventeen miles long yesterday, May 20.  It hit at three in the afternoon, while all the schools were still filled with children.  It ripped through one of those schools and heart sickened parents began the task of trying to locate their children, hopefully finding them alive.


Like in Joplin, the hospital in Moore was ripped apart, leaving the residents to set up triage areas where ever they could find that would do the most good.  Today, they are still searching for the missing, and locating the dead.  They have not made an estimate yet as to how many lost their lives on Monday or how many just were injured.  The one sure thing though is that approximately 56,000 lives were affected with in a ten minute period of time.  It is heart wrenching to watch the footage being broadcast from Moore.

It could never happen here.  The thing is it did happen in Moore, Oklahoma.  It happened for the third time in a little over twenty years.  This small innocent town was hit in 1999 with the tragedy that comes with a large tornado.  After spending four years rebuilding the town, the people of Moore were hit by another tornado in 2003.  Then on Monday the mother of all tornadoes hit the tiny town for a third time and still, the forecast says there possibly could be more storms in the region around Moore.


It could never happen here.  Anything can happen anywhere.  I imagine the people of Newtown, Connecticut didn't think they would have to deal with a school shooting.  The people of Austin, Texas walked by and looked up at that tower on the campus of the University not giving a second thought to the idea that a sniper could possibly climb to the top and start picking off innocent citizens one by one.  Even though the idea that these kind of horrific events would never happen "here", when they do happen, you have someone to point the finger at and try to figure out why?

There is no "why" to be answered by the onslaught of nature though.  There is no "why" to be answered by the fact that the town of Moore, Oklahoma will be rebuilding yet again.  There is no "why" when a flood, hurricane, blizzard or a tornado hits and hurts innocent people who just happen to live there.  It happens, you take a deep breath and start to continue with life and that isn't easy.

 
Every year here in the Kansas City area of eastern Kansas and western Missouri we have at least a dozen tornadoes every year.  There is a lot of farmland out here, a lot of vacant spaces for tornadoes to land and not do too much damage.  It is something you get use to, almost complacent about when you live in tornado alley.  The farm land and rural areas are slowly shrinking though as the cities and their suburbs continue to grow and spread out.   The odds of a tornado hitting a town or city must be increasing every year, or so it would seem. 

When fellow citizens who seem so close to you, like in Joplin, Tuscaloosa or Moore, Oklahoma feel the wrath of these winds of destruction, it feels like they are zeroing in on areas that isn't farmland or rural.  It almost makes you convince yourself that, It won't happen here."  Then you take the case of that little town of Moore.  Three times hit in just a little over twenty years.  It has been 56 years since that huge monster tornado ripped through my neighborhood.  Thinking of Moore makes you wonder, "Maybe we are due for another one?"  Scary thought and one that I sincerely hope won't become reality.


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