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Don't play Russian roulette with Mother Nature


Just a thought


April 04, 2012
Once again, a disaster has hit close to home. Some people here in Southern Indiana didn't survive the onslaught of storms on March 2. Area towns — Henryville, Marysville, New Pekin and Chelsea — were virtually destroyed. Many who lived to see another day will never forget and many lives have been changed forever.

Most of us can remember April 3, 1974, vividly. I drove to Brandenburg that day and got there just after a huge tornado had turned the sleepy little river town upside down. That was long before the Federal Emergency Management Agency, long before there was a nationwide network of emergency responders who could rush to the scene and organize search-and-rescue efforts, debris clean-up, temporary shelters and food and water supplies, as well as evaluate damage and help restore utilities and clear roads and streets.

Brandenburg had none of that. It had a fire department, sheriff's department and a couple of Kentucky State Police officers who happened to be nearby — and they did the best they could. Twenty-eight people lost their lives there.

The damage that day was spread over an extremely large area —13 states — and included 148 tornadoes during an 18-hour period. In this region, the storms also tore through Louisville, Madison, Harrodsburg and even Xenia, Ohio, where 34 people were killed. So, the need of help was great, and available emergency responders were spread thin.

Altogether, 315 people were killed, 6,000 were injured and 27,590 buildings were damaged. About 74 percent of those who died in those tornadoes were in houses or buildings, 17 percent were in mobile homes, 6 percent were in automobiles and 3 percent died while seeking shelter. It was the most intense, widespread tornado outbreak in recorded history.

Many who saw all the damage from those tornadoes — myself included — never thought it would happen again. It was the old mindset of lightning never striking the same place twice. But the tornadoes of March 2 blew that theory to the winds. And we now know that anything is possible with Mother Nature.

When I was in New Zealand a few years ago, several people there talked to me about tornadoes. They had heard about them and couldn't imagine living in the Midwestern United States where these kinds of storms can drop out of the sky with little warning and destroy everything in their paths. They can deal with hurricanes, or cyclones as they are called there, because they travel a path that can be tracked. But tornadoes are too unpredictable, and they believe that living here is like playing Russian roulette every spring, when tornadoes are most likely to occur. And on some level, they are right.

This latest batch of tornadoes — due to the advancement of technology and many people now owning small video cameras — was captured on video by several people and posted on YouTube. Those videos were frightening. They exposed the power and size of those storms and how they destroyed everything in their path — trees, homes, businesses, automobiles — and lives.

Last year, I wrote an article about storm shelters. Gene Norman and several others in Crawford County have installed small shelters in their backyards and now have a safe place to escape tornadoes and severe storms. Everyone should consider doing the same thing. Small, but serviceable shelters can be installed inexpensively. And neighbors can even join together, build one and share it if dangerous weather threatens. Every mobile home park should be required to have a shelter available for residents, and it may be an idea that subdivisions should consider because many homes don't have basements. And even if they have basements, storm shelters offer more safety. The lady who lost her legs on March 2, trying to save her children near Henryville, was in a basement.

We think nothing of investing in a new washer and dryer if we need them, or a refrigerator, or a dishwasher, or a new four-wheeler, or new patio furniture, or a large-screen TV, but none of those things can save your life. For a similar investment, you can have a small shelter installed, and your family will always have a place it can escape to if a twister threatens. Odds are, tornadoes will return to our area, and Russian roulette is a dangerous game to play with those storms.

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