Before the Storm Arrives

Tornadoes

. . . YOU must make the decision to seek shelter before the storm arrives. It could be the most important decision you will ever make.

From” A PREPAREDNESS GUIDE Including Safety Information for Schools U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service September 1992 (NOAA, FEMA, The American Red Cross)

The skies weren’t threatening. But the sirens were wailing. Really wailing.

I tried to take my cues from the nonchalant Midwesterners. But the sirens were wailing and I’m from California. We’re nonchalant about earthquakes.

Until they happen.

Earthquakes

During the first couple of weeks in October, 1989, I’d worked on an earthquake preparedness proceedings guide for Kaiser Permanente. It included a fictionalized account of a 7.0 earthquake hitting the Bay Area on the Hayward fault: all three bridges – the Golden Gate, the Bay Bridge, and the Richmond-San Rafael – had come down and Penny in Pinole was still waiting to hear what had happened to her husband who was working in San Francisco.

I pulled an all nighter in order to meet the deadline. “You know,” I said as I handed the document to my client, “I’ve never been afraid of earthquakes before.”

I’d been scheduled to go to a meeting in the East Bay. But because I’d been up all night the night before, I headed back over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to my home in Mill Valley.

The earthquake hit at 5:00 P.M. on the Loma Prieta fault.

A portion of the Bay Bridge came down. And the freeway I would have been traveling on to my meeting had pancaked, squashing people at random.

Back to Tornadoes

Who’s most at risk?
• People in automobiles
• The elderly, very young, and the physically or mentally impaired
• People in mobile homes
• People who may not understand the warning due to a language barrier

A PREPAREDNESS GUIDE Including Safety Information for Schools U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service September 1992 (NOAA, FEMA, The American Red Cross)

Safe on three out of the four: If this were October 14, I might be considered in the “elderly” demographic. (I’ll turn 60 on October 13).

But I don’t speak siren. And tornadoes touch down wherever they want. Like the pancaking freeway, they land on whoever happens to be in their way.

Preparing for a tornado or an earthquake are pretty much the same: three-day supply of food and water; know how to contact family.

I would add: When the sirens wail, prepare for random – identify your important life decisions and make them before the storm arrives.

Note: I’m taking a class called the Artful Essayist here at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. This post comes from one of my assignments.

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