Tuesday, May 20, 2014

57-Years Ago at This Time


This is a short excerpt from the first chapter of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather
That storm continued to move northeast, more or less parallel to today's Interstate 35. This is what it looked like passing Ottawa:
Ottawa "Herald"
Of course, this is the storm that later struck south Kansas City, destroying my kindergarten and killed 44 people. It is known as the Ruskin Heights Tornado and it was the first tornado where the Weather Bureau "warned" of a tornado in the way that we think of tornado warnings today. It also set the entire course of my life: Both my career and the wonderful girl I would meet and later marry.

I bring this up because I read this piece in the wake of the Moore Tornado one-year commemoration today. It pertains to the National Weather Service (formerly Weather Bureau) forecaster who was warning Moore:

Scott Curl says he relies on his faith during quiet moments of prayer.
However, the heaviness of tragedy still weighs on his shoulders.
He said, “That’s always the tough part for me. People always tell me, ‘You saved hundreds of people’s lives.’ But on May 3rd, we lost 42 and on May 20th, we lost 24. So I always go back, and just my personality, I just think about what I could have done differently that those people could be here today.”
After last year’s tornado outbreak, the National Weather Service provided counseling for its employees for the first time in its history.
In the third chapter of Warnings, I wrote something I hope will be helpful:

Meteorologists are extremely public-service-minded and want to prevent deaths. In situations where fatalities occur, they exhibit a form of survivor’s guilt: “Maybe if I had just broadcast the warning one more time … If I had just emphasized go to the basement more …” In most of these situations, they did their job well and those who were injured either didn’t get the warning or chose to ignore it.

Mr. Curl: You and your teammates at the National Weather Service in Norman did an outstanding job with the Moore tornado and you saved many lives. Please do not have a moment's doubt about the work you did a year-ago today. 

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