This most recent outbreak of tornadoes occurred while I was in Montgomery Alabama. I had never been in a place that had weather-related sirens, or at least I had never been in one of these places when the sirens went off. We were sitting outside, at a Mexican restaurant, when the sirens began to blare. At first, I thought that there may have been a fire station close by, but I quickly realized that these sirens were due to approaching weather. What happened next is the point of this entire article. As I sat there listening to these sirens, I observed that people were going about their business as though nothing unusual was occurring. One little girl at a table next to ours asked her mother what the sirens meant. The mother responded, “they are telling us that bad weather is coming.” The problem was that no one was taking any kind of action to protect themselves or their family, including me. I did begin to think, where would I go in this building if I knew that a tornado was coming. (As I read this to my wife, she stated that the interesting point was “if I knew that a tornado was coming.” In other words, I did not trust the sirens.) Though scores of people had lost their lives that day, this event ended up being a thunderstorm with torrential rain and no tornado. Had there been a tornado, many people could have lost their lives in Montgomery that evening.
I have witnessed the same responses to a fire alarm going off in hotels or conference centers. I cannot say that everyone is complacent on this issue, but many are. While stationed at #14, we ran the hotels on West Hundred Rd, in the vicinity of Interstate 95. Most of the people were found outside, but some chose to remain in their rooms throughout the building. Early warning is just that, early warning! If we choose to disregard the early warning, then we fall into the trap of believing that no bad thing can possibly happen to us.
Some of the tornadoes that hit Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, and Alabama were rated as an F5. In other words, winds reached nearly 200 mph. Houses were picked up, as if they were sitting on a Monopoly board, and dropped in different places. The only chance that a person has is to respond when the warning is received. I watched the news in Alabama as a powerful storm cell passed 50 miles to the north of our hotel. Weather reports stated that this storm had definite rotation and showed a debris signature, which is, as the weatherman stated, the only means of determining and forecasting a tornado at night. I cannot tell you the number of times that this reporter stated that if you are in the path of this storm then you must stop listening to this report on your television and get to your safe place. He stated that many have been killed, waiting to obtain just a little more information.
The bottom line is that we all need to take these early warnings seriously. My wife has asked me where we would go in our own home if a tornado was coming? Another important point is what will you do when you are traveling? We must get out of the mind set, “It will never happen to me.” Human nature causes each of us to be our own worst enemy. I do remember having the conversation at that table in Montgomery, which went like this, “Is there something that we should be doing in response to these sirens?” The answer was that we chose to follow the locals and do nothing.