Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Tornadoes… and More things than you can shake a stick at

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sure… the title is a colloquialism. However, that does not make it any less true.

Only the blithely ignorant would not be aware that the South has experienced utterly devastating tornadoes recently. The utter scope, breadth, magnitude, number and extent of the literally hundreds of tornadoes that struck principally in Alabama have literally knocked the state for a loop.

Complicating matters was a hitherto unheard-of event – the destruction of numerous Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) towers which carried in excess of 100 main transmission lines which fed power throughout North Alabama. Electrical power was absent throughout much of the northern counties for nearly a week in some places, as crews from states throughout the Southeast rallied to repair the power grid, and restore electrical service to millions of Alabamians. TVA has estimated that 107 main transmission lines and 350 towers were destroyed. And while power has been restored, it is only “cobbled” together, and in no way has the power grid returned to 100% capacity or its’ previous repair status.

FEMA has declared the tornadoes and storms that wreaked havoc in Alabama April 27, 2011 a Category-I Disaster, making it on par with the magnitude of events of the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11/01, and Hurricane Katrina. Early reports by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicate that numerous tornadoes were category EF-5 – a previously unheard-of strength – with winds in excess of 200 mph, essentially, a hurricane-strength wind.

The upside of it all is that we have responded, and are responding in the aftermath recovery as we have planned.

What do I mean by that?

Here’s a partial explanation.

Public health defines “Mass Disaster” as “a man-made or natural disaster in which so many persons are injured that local emergency medical services may be overwhelmed or destroyed.” This massive storm system fulfilled and exceeded every expectation of that definition.

For many years, I, along with numerous others, have volunteered time, energy, money and effort toward community response, focusing principally on communication and health, by and through regular training and simulation. We have collaborated extensively with local, state, regional and federal Emergency Management Agency, which has included Mass Disaster simulation with numerous public agencies, including police, fire, health departments, educational institutions, and a veritable host of other public and private agencies and enterprises, not the least of which has been Amateur Radio (also commonly known as “Ham radio”).

We have endeavored also to engage the public through individual training, such as CERT – Community Emergency Response Teams – by and through FEMA, and have embarked upon widespread public awareness campaigns at the state level by the Alabama Department of Public Health‘s (ADPH) nationally recognized, and CDC-applauded best practice for states “Get 10” campaign. Even the North Alabama Medical Reserve Corps was activated by the Madison County EMA.

In essence, we have made a plan, and are acting according to the plan.

Has this Mass Disaster struck a nerve? Unquestionably, yes – it has. Undoubtedly also, there will be much discussion about how we can enhance the structural integrity of buildings, maintain public safety, and more.

The resultant good that will emerge will be an invigoration of the economy, rebuilt/rehabilitated infrastructure and more. In all sincerity, this could be the event that catapults our national economy toward genuine recovery.

2 Responses to “Tornadoes… and More things than you can shake a stick at”

  1. wb5rmg said

    Thanks Kevin, for your contribution of time and skills at the Sparkman Clinic. For your readers who may be unaware of this, the North Alabama Medical Reserve Corps (http://www.northalabamamrc.com) operated a field clinic in a school cafeteria for nearly a week after the tornado outbreak.

    This school (as in the management and staff) also provided facilities for hundreds of visiting law enforcement troops to sleep during the day, after long night shifts spent patrolling our devastated neighborhoods. The field clinic had hundreds of visitors, and helped our neighbors with missing prescriptions, treatment of puncture wounds and cuts and abrasions. Some were further dispatched to the Emergency Room, but most were handled with care and were ready to go back to their homes.

    The road to recovery seems it may be a long hike, but this community has poured so much attention into the initial response that everyone here is ready to proudly march on. There is no way to thank everyone individually, but you hear echos of praise in these hills every day. I am proud to have been able to contribute in the information management and communications for the initial response, along with hundreds of my fellow ham-radio operators. Sometimes folks make fun of us for training and preparing for this type of large scale disaster, but that training has paid off – as we were ready and did what we do best. You can read some brief blog posts and see some of the photos I took ; http://wb5rmg.wordpress.com ….

    Most importantly, just because the news has shifted to other more current happenings – this recovery will take months and years.. We will be healing for a long time – help your neighbors where and when you can.

    Thanks /;^)


    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alan! As I had reflected after writing, it occurred to me that I had inadvertently neglected to mention the NAMRC, and only moments ago, corrected that oversight, also adding a few minor details on power grid status. And now, I see your comment! Yaay! Thanks for helping out this way, AND at the NAMRC clinic!

      You’re so spot-on with the observation that “This recovery will take months and years… we will be healing for a long time.” I genuinely hope that we never forget the price we have paid – indeed the price all such individuals whom suffer such tragedy have paid – and continue to remain vigilant to protect & serve.


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