Disaster anniversary: 6,317 meals; 8,000 pounds of ice

[This is a post for the spReAd the love Into the Storm challenge to benefit international disaster relief organizations and Richard Armitage’s JustGiving charities. The challenge is to blog about one’s experience of disaster relief — as helper or helped — for a kindness in the kindness campaign and a matching donation by an Anonymous Co-Conspirator to one of the organizations listed on the challenge page. “me + richard armitage” is open to guest posts, so if you’d like to blog about your experience of disaster and the organizations that helped you out, please be in touch.]

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1157677_619175418123053_852153345_n[Left: A local church crushed by last summer’s tornado. This is the only picture I saved — because the image in the foreground coincided with one of the themes of my research.]

We had a disaster here last summer — just as mom was getting ready to try to come home, an F2 tornado hit. No one was hurt in the storm; one person died during the clean-up. It happened at night, which was a blessing — but the sirens didn’t go. The county executive who made that decision has been fired, but it wasn’t solely her fault — the storm trackers all the way from Minneapolis east to us missed or misunderstood what was going on. You can’t see everything that’s happening on the ground from a radar screen. And, apparently, even had she made the right call, not all of the alert stations were actually functioning. The story of the general level of unpreparedness has been raging through the local papers all year.

track_prelim4w[Right: The NOAA storm map. We live a quarter-mile off the local highway the yellow EF2 line followed. We were really lucky.]

Oddly enough, today — the day that Richard Armitage’s new film about surviving a tornado hits the screens — is the anniversary of that event. The local news has been commenting on it all week but I have been avoiding the coverage; too many other memories from last summer and more anniversaries I don’t like, coming up.

The main shock of unpreparedness that we had was that the rehab where mom was located had only a very limited backup generator and power was not restored for four days. The storm hit really hard about three blocks from there and knocked over a whole power installation hub thingie on top of a Taco Bell restaurant. That’s the main image I remember from the episode, but I couldn’t find a picture. The hospital (where Obscura was the other night) was in even worse shape and they had to rush transport a generator up here from Chicago for support. Those buildings are not built for powerlessness. You have to go to the bathroom with a flashlight because the rooms are completely windowless. So are the closets. The windows have to be blocked off because of  the risk of flying glass. And to keep themselves going they had to bring in all their food from elsewhere. In a hot summer, suffering patients are dependent on ice and we made sure to stop elsewhere to get some every time we went to see mom, not just for her, but for everyone else. The nurses were great and lots of people were helping but it was a sub-optimal situation. Today’s news coverage has emphasized how much everyone cooperated — and that makes me happy — but I’d rather people not be put in that situation.

maxresdefault[Left: the view the next morning, driving into the town where I went to school]

Still, we ourselves weren’t hurt badly. A lot of our trees lost branches but we didn’t lose any trees themselves — that is one of the things about a tornado. It follows a path of least resistance, sometimes down a highway or across a praire, and cuts through the landscape arbitrarily, like an erratic knife. One building will be completely gone; the next one only fifty yards away, can be left completely untouched. You can cover in your storm cellar as your neighbor’s house is devastated — you can feel the crazy air pressure changes in your own ears, and the same queasy sky that looks so wrong will nauseatingly blanket both houses. But your neighbor’s house is gone and yet you walk upstairs yourself and turn the lights back on. It’s one of the wildest things about the experience — how utterly random it is. There’s no good way to prepare. You just live your life, and hope for the best, hope that you’ll be in reach of shelter when you need it and that someone will reach out to help you.

Reading today about relief efforts in the Valley, I learned that the Red Cross was here for us and that 75 relief workers delivered 6,317 meals and 8,000 pounds of ice to local residents over the four days of its most active efforts. I was fortunate not to need those things, but grateful they were there. It made me think that the times I’ve donated to disaster relief efforts coordinated by the Red Cross in other parts of the U.S., people were actively there for those victims as well.

We weren’t hurt (that) badly and I’m grateful for the blessing of being able to go to the theater tonight to watch a tornado movie with Richard Armitage. And despite his needling of the Screen Crush reporter, I hope he never finds himself in one of these.

If you’d like to spReAd the love by blogging about your experiences with disaster relief, please let me or one of the other participating bloggers know.

~ by Servetus on August 7, 2014.

One Response to “Disaster anniversary: 6,317 meals; 8,000 pounds of ice”

  1. […] been so lucky not to have been hit by any natural disasters, but previously I blogged about one of my two closest brushes with a tornado, last summer, and Red Cross assistance. The other episode relates to the wider wake of Hurricane Katrina in […]

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