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One person killed by a tornado is one too many. But upon seeing the size, strength and sheer power exhibited by the EF-5 that tore through Moore, it seemed to me multiple hundreds of lifeless bodies would be the final tally. Thankfully, it was 24. One is tempted to say “only,” but it is a misplaced word in that kind of sentence. As mentioned earlier, even one is too many.
There’s a reason there weren’t hundreds dead, and it undoubtedly has to do with the amazing advances in recent years in the science of tornado predicting. Only a few short years ago, we would learn they might form the same day they did form.
In that bygone era, a tornado warning was only issued after human eyes actually spotted one wreaking havoc. Today, meteorology has advanced to the point that issuing a tornado warning has become possible well before one reveals itself visually just by looking at a radar screen.
Storms that created our last wholesale damage should not have come as a surprise to anyone, so far in advance were weather forecasters warning us it could be bad. True, they couldn’t be sure exactly where it would be bad, but their science told them it was exceptionally likely to be a dangerous situation somewhere in our general neck of the woods.
In fact, it was our specific neck of the woods that meteorologists thought was in the greatest danger, to the point they rented hotel rooms in Ardmore in anticipation of it being the beginning of ground zero, followed by storms tracking northeast toward us.
In other words, but for the fact nature decided otherwise, the world might be sending bucket loads of assistance to Ada right now rather than to Moore. We are fortunate, indeed.
In my own family, not so fortunate is my wife’s and my nephew. He survived because he was at work instead of home at the time. His entire house in Moore was leveled. He lost everything. Like many there, he expects insurance to cover him. Unlike some others, his parents live in Norman and he has a place to stay until his upside-down life gets righted again.
The assistance by other Oklahomans was so plentiful, he said, that no one whose home was destroyed should have gone hungry. It is a testimony to Sooner generosity that, according to him, at the cleanup site someone was coming around every five minutes asking him if he wanted food to eat. He said he had four bottles of water in the front seat of his truck because those donating them insisted he keep them. In Oklahoma, the fury of the storm is always followed by such.
As this is being written, storms are again threatening to come sweeping down the plains. No one wants that. But it offers some measure of comfort to know if it is us this time, an even greater outpouring of Oklahoma-style human kindness will follow.