Letter Re: Observations on the Recent Tornadoes

Mr. Rawles, I just finished reading the letter from R.A.  “Observations on the Recent Tornadoes”.  I live in the northern Alabama area also, less than five miles from the path of what has just been reclassified as an EF – 5 tornado. (For your readers in non-tornado prone areas, an EF – 5 is the most powerful category of tornadoes with winds in excess of 200 mph, completely tearing even substantial concrete and brick buildings from their foundations), and I can agree with the author’s points.  A few additional comments:

1)      Have a good radio handy that includes both a NOAA weather channel and normal AM/FM stations, and make sure it has multiple sources of power.  Alabama alone experienced over 20 tornadoes last Wednesday, and the stormy day began in the early morning, with multiple rounds of severe weather broken by short periods of calm until around 6:00 p.m. when the final tornadoes moved through.  Although I find that our local weather forecasters on television provide the most precise info as long as power is up, the NOAA weather radio is incredibly important once power goes out, but more rounds of bad weather are still expected.  And once the storms were over, the normal AM/FM stations were a lifeline to the world.  For five days we had no power, land-line phone, or internet, and only spotty cell service.  My radio, with those wonderful Eneloop batteries and a hand-crank back-up, provided all our sources of information. 

2)      It’s very helpful to have FRS or GMRS radios to communicate with trusted neighbors.  I had saved back an old-fashioned phone that requires no electricity for use, knowing that in a lack of electricity most land-line phones used these days won’t work.  I still think that’s a good idea to have one of those .  But when the phone lines are taken out too, it doesn’t matter what type of phone you have – it’s not going to work – and relying on a cellular network is taking quite a chance.

3)      I had no refrigeration capability, and decided to try an old method of keeping some juices, water, sodas, etc. cool.  I watered down several small towels, wrapped each bottle in one, and set them in areas where they would receive a slight breeze.  I re-wet a couple of times each day.  Even though our daytime temps were in the 70s, I managed to have cool drinks due to the evaporation/wind effect of the wet towels.  I don’t suggest trying this with milk or other products that are more easily spoiled, just items that taste better when cool.

4)      Support local law enforcement efforts, and work to elect common-sense officials.  When up to half a million people are without power ( the Huntsville metro area had NO power coming in to the utility grid for several days), some places would be making headlines for the crime and looting.  The night of the tornadoes, we had a looting attempt in which someone tried to break into a gas station.  To head off crime waves, our city police and county sheriffs worked together to implement a dusk-to-dawn curfew that was unilaterally enforced, and as R.A. commented, completely minimized crime for the duration .  It allowed the police to focus on dealing with true emergencies resulting from the lack of power rather than on looters and traffic accidents resulting from a lack of lights at night.   

It was a temporary public safety restriction, but a very practical one that was supported by even my most libertarian friends, and it was lifted as soon as the majority of the power was reestablished .  And lest you think that our sheriff is a liberal, eliminate your rights individual, in his same announcement about the curfew, he made it quite clear that “you have the right to protect your property”.   That looting attempt I mentioned?  The alleged offender was shot and killed by the gas station owner.  No charges were filed against the gas station owner, and it was made quite clear where law enforcement sympathies would be.  Given the number of gun owners around here, looting never got off the ground after that and we remained crime-free during a week of the worst natural disaster this part of Alabama has ever experienced.

I encourage your readers to pray for the 250+ families who have lost loved ones and the thousands of families in this state who now have either no home or a home too damaged to live in .

Thanks for all you do, – C.K.