A home that was completely leveled and mostly swept away by a high-end EF3 tornado in Defiance, Missouri. (Courtesy of noaa.gov via Wikimedia Commons)
A home that was completely leveled and mostly swept away by a high-end EF3 tornado in Defiance, Missouri. (Courtesy of noaa.gov via Wikimedia Commons)

When residents in eight Midwestern states heard warnings that devastating tornadoes were headed their way, were those warnings taken seriously? It’s hard to say but no one could have predicted the catastrophic impact tornadoes would have on their communities or their lives.  When the tornadoes hit last Friday evening, entire towns were destroyed. Homes, churches and businesses were demolished, and the death rate continues to rise. 

A candle factory in Kentucky and an Amazon factory in Illinois were full of workers when the tornado hit. Survivors showed up for work to fill holiday orders and recover revenue losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. In a flash, they were buried under the debris as the tornado tore through the building, leaving them pleading to rescuers for help. Loved ones are asking if the companies did enough to ensure the safety of their employees, and so are we.

In the D.C. metro area, residents often doubt the severity of meteorologists’ predictions of an impending storm event. Locally, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes are extremely rare but the D.C. government has introduced measures to warn residents if a severe or catastrophic weather occurrence is forthcoming.

When severe storms are headed our way, residents are asked to hunker in place while city workers prepare the streets against hazardous conditions. If residents question those warnings, it’s a flip of the coin. But evidence lies in their mad dash to the local market to stock up on food and to the gas station to fill their cars or generators.

Technology has provided local governments the resources needed to warn residents of impending weather storms. In D.C., AlertDC is the system that provides residents with “a personal connection to real-time updates and instructions to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighborhood.” It is a volunteer system that can be downloaded to a mobile device that offers a menu of alerts.

Meteorologists explain that climate change and a La Nina atmospheric condition may have contributed to the extraordinary nature of the tornadoes that rarely occur in December. In fact, a La Nina was predicted to be the cause of severe tornadoes this season in the U.S.

While we cannot control the weather, we can remain aware of how climate change will impact us. Our prayers go out to the families trying to pull their lives back together in the Midwest. Who knows where damaging storms will occur next? We only know that we, too, will be impacted by storms, and we must also take heed to the warnings.

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