By Jeffery Robichaud
I was saddened just like most of you to see the footage from yesterday’s events in Moore, Oklahoma. Several years ago I posted this article on EPA’s main Greenversations Blog. Two years ago our Region experienced our own devastation to the south in Joplin, Missouri. Tornadoes are serious stuff. Make sure you and your family are prepared especially if you live east of the Rockies as they can hit most anywhere (great visualization from John Nelson of uxblog.idvsolutions.com).
EPA has a broad and powerful mission to protect human health and the environment. We often think of this in the context of human impacts on the environment, but sometimes it is the other way around.
In Kansas City, a threat to our well-being rears its head every spring. I could tell it arrived the other night when I flipped on the TV to watch LOST and the screen lit up with red and green splotches over a map. It was storm season again and meteorologists had pre-empted Must-see TV for Twister TV with the fervor of election-night coverage or the latest celebrity car chase.
It was our first warning of the season, and my wife and I scooped up the kids and raced down into the basement. The all clear came, but another siren sounded an hour or so later. We repeated the drill (this time with sleeping children) and trudged to bed after another all clear. Not until the morning did we learn that two twisters touched down next to our local drug store. Five years prior a tornado ripped through Kansas City just a mile south of our house (my wife ever the wiser of the pair dragged me inside reminding me that I was now a dad). Sadly this was reinforced two years ago when our good friends lost their home in Springfield, Missouri to a twister. They had a newborn, which, as my friend told me, was the only reason they got off the couch and ran to the closet that saved their life.
Last year (edit: 6 years ago now) was a rough one for natural disasters in our Region. Everyone remembers the devastation that occurred in Greensburg, Kansas. At EPA, we get called in to assist with public health and environmental problems in the aftermath of events like the tornado in Greensburg or the flooding that struck Coffeyville, Kansas. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of our neighbors, especially the occasional ones who ignored warnings.
Yes, newscasters tend towards exaggeration and embellishment to ensure rapt audiences, but don’t let that overwhelm the importance of heeding the underlying message. Next time you are faced with a flood, fire, hurricane, or tornado warning make sure you get yourself and family to a safe place instead of watching TV. And if anybody in Kansas City needs to know what happened on LOST let me know… I DVR’d the re-broadcast.
Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.