Monday, March 20, 2006

From the eyelash of the storm

One week ago this morning, residents of Springfield, IL waited for daylight to see the extent of damage from the previous night’s storms. Two F-2 tornados scraped across most of Springfield's southern third from west to east on Sunday, March 12; storm sirens sent us to our basements (and kept us there) three times between 8 pm and 3 am. Our satellite went out around 8:20 pm, a quick listen to the radio alerted us of a tornado on the ground to our west/southwest, then the power went out. We relied on occasional cell phone calls for updates, but when the vicious rain and wind stopped to a dead calm at one point, we knew plenty.

Monday morning, daylight revealed the first tornado’s path, about a mile south of our house (the second one set down a few hundred feet east of where the first one dissipated). We were lucky: our power was only out til Monday, and we had no damage. Over 1600 other structures' owners weren’t so lucky, although the sirens apparently resulted in no loss of life. Dozens of businesses, hundreds of homes, and city and state services were damaged and without power.

Blocks of residential neighborhoods look like East Nashville did after the April 1998 tornado – tons of old trees down, roofs gone, 250+ houses destroyed, with some concentrations of destruction causing city leaders to predict no power restoration for up to a year in those areas. Schools were damaged, many without power, streets were closed because of power lines down, and school buses tangled in power lines and poles, so schools were closed for most of last week. Mail delivery and garbage pickup were delayed city-wide, hotel rooms were filled as several hotels were hit, and temporary shelters were established in unaffected school gyms.

The rest of the community responded and continues to respond with food, supplies, chain saws, shelter, fundraisers, and blood drives. And hey! FEMA got here in less than a week, whew. Crews are scrambling today to get trees and limbs cleared from streets because we’re expecting 3 to 8 inches of snow tonight (Springtime in the Midwest). With or without snow, recovery will take time and the scars will be visible for years, but Springfield will recover.

Of life's frightening, stressful experiences, many are much easier a second time and any subsequent times we go through them because we know they weren’t as bad as we feared. Others are worse with successive occurrences because we know how bad they can be. For me, I’ve got to say tornado proximity and fear/stress have a direct correlation, and hope I don’t get to test that again anytime soon.

If you missed our 15 minutes of fame on national news last week, look at the State Journal-Register’s photos and coverage.

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