Mason County News
Weather Fair 81.0°F (47%)
When Storms Roll In... Responding
In My Opinion...
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 • Posted March 21, 2012

I had already been watching the storms on radar on Monday afternoon, so I knew that the clouds were building, and that they were moving our direction. I saw them intensify over Roosevelt and Junction, and started getting weather alerts on Weatherbug.I started hearing the "chatter" on the scanner as the dispatcher updated emergency personnel to the approaching weather system. When they decided to turn on the tornado siren, I already knew what needed to be done.Donna and I were still at the office, and we quickly began shutting down all the computers. We actually dealt with yet another business phone call, and we explained that we would need to talk to them later as we had a "situation." The siren went off once more, and we decided that we would move our vehicles under the carport behind the office just in case of hail.The wind was changing direction, the temperature was dropping, and the sky was turning a pale shade of green. Donna and I stood on the front porch at the office where we could watch the situation and also listen to the scanner.I found it amazing that, with the siren wailing, there was still lots of activity around the square. Most people didn't seem to be in much of a hurry, and one even stopped over by the law office to snap a few photos of the approaching clouds. Donna and I were at a 140 year old building with 18 inch stone walls, so we felt fairly confident that we were already where we needed to be. However, the people I saw driving around were casting casual glances at the sky while they made their way leisurely to their next destination.The Sheriff's Department provided plenty of advance warning when they made their decision to start the siren. So often, we hear of people who were in similar situations, and they almost always say the same thing: "If I had just had a bit more warning, I could have gotten everyone to safety!"After the first siren blast, I expected to see a lot of folks moving about, returning home and moving to cover. After the second siren, I figured that the people I was seeing were those that had just finished making phone calls to make sure their loved ones were all safe and secure. And then the siren sounded a third time.And a fourth, just prior to the hail.It was when it began hailing that the vehicles going around the square suddenly began moving with a sense of urgency. Finally, people seemed to accept that the siren had been sounded in earnest, and perhaps they needed to find safe haven.I was visiting friends in Lubbock when the 1970 tornado hit. I remember the way that, as soon as the siren started, everyone in the house began moving to prearranged "safe spots." There was a sense of urgency; but, not of panic. Bobby and I went under the built in desk while the adults went into the bathtub. When it was over, the roof and the wall were gone; but, we were all alive and unharmed.I thought about that day in Lubbock as I watched people missing an opportunity to move to safety on Monday. I thought about how, if there had been a tornado moving through the area, those people I saw would have been in cars, out in the open rather than inside a structure taking cover.Perhaps we forget just how powerful such storms can be. Or, maybe we decide that the warning siren is more of a nuisance than a safety feature. Sometimes, we even believe that we are smart enough to know how to avoid the storm once it makes its full presence known.I stayed close to the office door, ready to take two steps back inside and to safety should the need arise. I already knew where Donna and I would have to take cover, and I knew what our risks would be.I wonder what I would have felt if I had to report in the paper that people I knew had died in a storm because they had failed to take cover? I wonder if my anger at their failure to take the situation seriously would have subsided by then?I hope you weren't one of them.

It’s all just my opinion.

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