May 22, 2012

Joplin Tornado - 1 year later

Photo by Mike Gullett – AP

One year ago, on a Sunday afternoon, this image became reality for us.  We live an hour away from Joplin and when the tornado struck, we were stunned.  My husband's boss and one co-worker live in Joplin (many people who work for the same company live in Joplin, but I'm talking on the same team).  I remember the many phone calls trying to find out their status.  At the same time, the storms were heading our way so we were also changing our plans and taking shelter at a neighbor's house who has a basement.

His boss and his family took shelter in their laundry room.  Their home was destroyed around them and they had to escape by climbing up through the debris out of their laundry room.  Fortunately his whole family survived. We were able to reach him Sunday evening and relayed information among the rest of the team.  But the co-worker was not so easy.  It took until Monday afternoon for word from the co-worker to reach the team.  He and his family were fine and there was some damage to his some, but it was not destroyed.  Much of that week was spent gathering items for tornado victims.
Photo by Landov Media

Our first news of the tornado was someone saying there was concern that the St John's hospital in Joplin was at risk of a gas explosion.  That's when we turned on the news and discovered the damage the tornado had done.  As the stories from the hospital poured in, it was unmanageable to us.  Both of us had worked in a hospital for about 10 years and always felt so safe even in tornado warnings.  Then to learn that the tornado had actually moved the hospital off it's foundation!

One year later, we have been blessed with a light tornado season so far, but the memories are still so real.  Take a moment today to remember those affected by the Joplin tornado and to evaluate what you need to do to better prepare your family.  Some takeaways we've discussed:
  • add a map to your 72 hr kit - with landmarks, street signs, and buildings destroyed, it was hard to determine your location after the tornado.  
  • Take shelter when those sirens go off!
  • Get a weather radio and sign up for text message warnings.  We don't live too far from a siren but we also have a weather radio in our home to give us additional warning and we signed up for text messages for tornado warnings in our area in case we're not at home.
  • Let your family know where you take shelter
 I also recommend you read Advice from an Expert Dad.  This dad is an emergency management structural engineer and knows what he is talking about.

Our prayers go to those who were in Joplin that day one year ago and for those who weren't but had loved ones there!