Monday, June 3, 2013

Springtime In The Mid-West

Springtime in the Mid-West is one of the most beautiful yet scariest places on earth.  All of the trees, shrubs and grass turn a lush green. Spring is full of magnificently colorful flowers, baby farm animals, baby wildlife and birds chirping. Just as beautiful are the nights. Because there are so few lights in the countryside the sky is pitch black with a billion sparkling stars while here on earth there are fireflies, glow worms and an orchestra of frogs, crickets and owls. It is the most gorgeous happenstance that anyone could dream up and everyone should experience.

But with all that beauty comes a very real threat, tornado season. As the cold air tries to move out and the warm air tries to move in, the two collide. In the springtime our storm radio seems to sound off several times a week. There’s no alarm that will make you jump out of bed any faster than a storm radio. As an extra layer of protection we have the National Weather Service phone alerts. That means when everything starts to alarm, sound off and ring, one could say it gets just a little crazy around here. The storm radio alarms screams, the outdoor storm siren blasts while our home phone and each of our cell phones ring different tones. If we happen to have out of state company, they are paralyzed with fear during the entire process.

It is good to try to always be ready. We keep items in our storm shelter so that we are not running around at the last second. We have a basic wall jack landline phone (handhelds will not work without electrical power). A solar charger for our cell phones and laptop, bottled water, canned foods with a manual can opener, a few days’ worth of medications, a first aid kit, a pry bar, hammer and a few other tools. We also bought some of those cheap eye glasses at the dollar store and keep spare ones with our supplies. They are not our exact prescriptions, but they work in a pinch. A deck of cards, a few board games, a solar charged flashlight, a battery operated flashlight, matches, tennis shoes, socks tee-shirts and jeans, a 5 gallon bucket with plastic bags to line it and toilet paper, dog food, a battery operated radio, pillows and blankets that we keep stored in one of those air tight bags, an air mattress with a manual pump along with a few other miscellaneous items. It may sound like a lot, but it all fits in four plastic tot bins which takes up very little room.

At the end of every winter, I go thought the supplies to check expiration dates and to put in fresh batteries. Then when we receive a weather alert we grab our pets, cell phones, wallets and can be settled into the storm shelter in a minute or two. Most all the time we know well in advance if we are going to have bad weather. With few exceptions, we get about 5-10 minutes warning that our area is threatened.  The problem is that we get complacent and sometimes do not act on the alerts as we should. It took me a few years to even learn the difference between a watch and a warning. Warnings are more sever and my husband taught me a saying that reminds me the differences between the two, “Watch for the Warning to take cover.” A watch means there is a chance so stay on guard. A warning means take shelter now.

For those people that do not have shelters, when a watch is issued it is a good idea to go to the place where a shelter is located. If a warning is issued it is best to stay put, even if you do not have a shelter because you do not want to be caught outside traveling where you could get hit by flying debris, or worse. If you do not have a shelter and you are indoors they say to find the smallest room, on the lowest level, in the middle of the house and take cover there. It is like all other emergencies, having a plan in place helps to keep you calm and take action instead of reacting.

As soon as you have made sure the danger has passed and you and your family are safe then it is time to help others. I have lived in Michigan, California, Missouri and vacationed every summer in Idaho. I have witnessed firsthand how people respond to emergencies across the country. It is my opinion that when an emergency hits the people in the mid-west are at their best. There are no strangers or neighbors. We are all one  big family that would give the shirts off our back, the last dollar in our wallets and work days on end without rest to do everything in our ability to help anyone in need. Yes it is great to see help come in from across the country, but after all the help has returned home, we know our community is still there and that we will recover because we are surrounded by love and compassion.

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