Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tornado's and Technology

I have always had a love/hate relationship with technology. In so many ways I feel that it has ruined us as a society. It has made us hide behind our computers, cell phones and gaming systems and changed our world view, not necessarily for the better. However, technology does have it's good points. In today's technological world, it has kept us more closely connected as a people and we are able to communicate even in the worst situations. In my opinion technology is a double edged sword, being able to both ruin and save lives. I guess you just have to take the bad with the good.

On May 25, 1955, a tornado roared through Udall, KS leaving near complete destruction. It was an F5 that took out almost all of the town buildings and homes and in all 87 died and 200 were injured. It was touted as The Night Udall Died in reference to the fact that as a once thriving town pre tornado, Udall never fully recovered after that fateful night. Now, jump ahead to the Moore, OK tornado, also an F5 that hit last year on May 20, 2013 and killed 24 and injured 377. As tornado's go, they were actually quite similar in terms of destruction, however there were huge differences in outcomes, thanks to technology.

In 1955, weather radar and even meteorology were rudimentary at best. Weather conditions were not tracked days in advance and weather warnings such as sirens were sparse. Even if your town had a siren, by the time a tornado's presence was known, the sounding of the siren at best gave only minutes and sometimes just seconds to react. Part of what left Udall in such devastation that night was the time the tornado hit, which was after 10:30 p.m. and the location of Udall, a rural town, about 26 miles due south of Wichita, KS. There was no expectation of an F5 hitting that night. In fact at the time, no one had ever even heard of the Fujita scale for tornado's. They just knew of storms and tornado's and that some were worse than others. Little did they have a clue that night, that one of the worst tornado's was going to hit Udall head on. Storms were expected but certainly not a storm that would wipe out an entire town under a veil of darkness. It was because of this darkness, that those outside the town were not even aware that it had been hit until the light of day, leaving people injured and dying and unattended for hours in the aftermath. Phone lines and power lines were destroyed and roads leading in and out of the town were blocked by debris. I have heard the horror stories from residents of the time, who said people were hurt, bleeding and wandering aimlessly in shock seeing what had just happened to their town, their homes and in some cases their family and friends.

The first few minutes after a storm such as Udalls, are crucial for search and rescue and also for getting  medical help for any victims. Without this help their is inevitable death. It was hours before the residents of Udall could take care of the victims or even find victims. They were in the dark and trying to make sense of it all.

Think how differently it all might have gone for Udall if there had been spotters out in the days prior to this storm, watching it and keeping an eye on the sky and the town. It makes one wonder....what if warning had come soon enough for people to actually find shelter that night? In the aftermath, camera's would have already been on the town and teams would have been preparing all over for the "just in case" scenario as the storms continued to brew. If there had been cell phones perhaps at least one person could have called for help. Instead though, Udall remained in devastated darkness throughout the night. Yes, technology could have made Udall a very different story.

On May 20, 2013 at approximately 3 p.m. an F5 tornado, not unlike the tornado that hit Udall all those years before, loomed over Moore, OK as it took a direct hit. While the devastation of homes and property were great, after all....even technology cannot protect you from a 210 mph beast, the people of Moore had something Udall didn't. They had warning. Days in advance meteorologists had been watching this weather system carefully. They saw the signs and knew that the potential for this to be a dangerous Tornado Alley outbreak was great. Spotters had been sent out to the area hours and even days before the storms hit, watching and waiting and reporting back to Norman, OK letting them know their first hand views.

As this deadly monster geared up and bared down on Moore, the residents had already been warned. This warning was the difference between school kids being let out at 3 p.m. and being kept inside. People knew it was coming thanks to radio, TV and computers, sadly though the storms timing was horrific and the ability to protect yourself from an F5 is limited.

Thanks to technology though, in the aftermath help was there immediately. People had the ability to let loved ones know they were okay and search and rescue was almost instantaneous as the tornado resended. Medical help began the second victims were pulled from the rubble and lives were saved because while technology could not stop an F5, it could make us the best prepared we could be for the aftermath. Yes, without technology, this could have made Moore a very different story.

There are times when I am totally not a techno fan. I feel that in a lot of ways we have lost our innocence and our way because of  technology which has filled our minds and our days with useless stuff. However, I am not an idiot and I realize that with the less positives sides of the techno world, there is also a positive side that simply cannot be denied. Sometimes the very things I don't like, such as cell phones, can make the difference between life and death.

Udall and Moore happened 58 years apart and while the destruction was comparable, the situations were very different. Thanks to technology,  in the hours that it took for the outside world to even realize that Udall was devastated, people had been found, helped and cleanup was already under way in Moore. What a difference technology made.

Like it or not, technology is here to stay. Love it or hate it, it is part of our present and will undoubtedly be a part of our future. There will be things that make our world a better place and things that continue to make us lazy and unsocial. My hope though is, that instead of having to warn people over storms, someday technology will make it possible to actually defuse these horrific forces of nature so that never again will we have to suffer through a Udall or Moore.

In remembrance of the the victims and casualties of the Udall, KS tornado, May 25, 1955

In remembrance of the victims and casualties of the Moore, OK tornado, May 20, 2013

May God Bless Them All

1 comment:

Prof. Vedagiri Ganesan said...

Will the Govt. deploy a technology, when made available?