Southern storms reminder of our own vulnerability

Thursday, April 28, 2011

More reminders of the power of nature as massive storms roared through the central, south and eastern United States, with the death toll above 200 in six states and climbing as the morning goes along.

Thanks to our Web site and Facebook page, the Gazette was already receiving personalized reports from readers with relatives in the affected area, proving once again that it truly is a small world.

April already appears to have been one of the worst on record for the number of tornadoes reported nation-wide.

One of the storm stories had a familiar ring to it -- three nuclear plants had to switch to auxiliary power and shut down when twisters took out power lines. That, coupled with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is a good cautionary tales as we consider renewed construction of nuclear plants in the United States.

After a few relatively mild summers in Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas, it's easy to become complacent about tornadoes, especially with improving detection and warning systems in place.

As Wednesday night's storms proved, such dangerous storms can strike so quickly there is little time to find shelter.

We must do what we can, however, and the National Weather Service reminds us of the three most important things to do:

* Get a kit -- Have at least 3 days of supplies in an easy-to-carry evacuation kit, with additional supplies on hand. Remember to check your kit and replace the stock every 6 months. It should include water and food, a flashlight, first aid kit, medications, radio, batteries, tools, clothing, personal items, money, map, contact information, pet supplies and sanitary supplies.

* Make a plan -- Planning ahead will help you have the best possible response to an emergency. Talk with your family and establish responsibilities. Learn how and when to turn off utilities. Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Include your pets.

* Be informed -- Learn what emergencies may occur where you live, work or play. Know how your local authorities will notify you, and the names of surrounding towns and counties. Check the weather forecast before heading outdoors, and be aware of the signs of an approaching storm. Know where to get updated weather information, whether it be from NOAA Weather Radio, AM/FM radio, or television. Share what you have learned with your family, friends, and neighbors and encourage them to be informed too.

And that's just to take care of ourselves and our families. If you can do more, consider a cash donation to the American Red Cross and other reputable relief organizations.

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