Editorial: Nature's fury on display

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 18, 2011

Perhaps the only people who can fully appreciate the violence of the storms that swept through North Carolina and other parts of the South over the weekend are the people who witnessed the devastation and death that resulted and lived to talk about it.
Rowan County has seen its share of blustery weather this month, with damaging winds a couple of weeks ago and a tornado reported in western Rowan County on Saturday. Nerve-wracking as those events were, no injuries apparently resulted, and they pale beside the ferocity of the twisters that struck to our east this weekend. When houses are lifted from foundations and steel-framed buildings are ripped apart, when children die in their homes, it’s an ordeal that defies description. But here are some of the words that survivors and rescue workers used to try to capture what they saw and felt in areas such as Bertie and Bladen counties: mind-boggling, humbling, harrowing, devastating, scared, shock, disbelief, totally leveled, bomb, war zone.
An eye-witness in Bladen County captured the surreal nature of airborne pigs and wind-blown vehicles when she said, “It looked just like ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ ”
It was a disaster of historic proportions, with at least 21 confirmed N.C. deaths and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed or damaged. Earlier, the storm system had left similar scenes of destruction in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. The death toll in North Carolina would no doubt have been higher if residents hadn’t been prepared to take cover because of news accounts following the trail of destruction and weather-service warnings predicting the storms’ path.
The devastation is only half of the story, however. The other half emerges in the stories of heroism, unselfishness and community spirit recounted in the storms’ wake. Amid death and ruined homes, it’s hard to see a silver lining. Yet these are some other words survivors have uttered: help, recovery, faith, thankful, blessed, miraculous. Almost before the roaring winds faded, stories of heroism and hope began to filter out. The store manager who herded his employees to safety. A man who braved howling winds to deliver an elderly neighbor to safety. Clean-up crews, Red Cross volunteers and others converging from across the state to render emergency aid and comfort. Inevitably, those are part of any disaster, too.
Forecasters say this is shaping up as an unusually volatile spring storm season. Thus far, we’ve been fortunate to escape with moderate damage locally. But complacency can be deadly when Mother Nature is this rambunctious. Keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to seek safer ground — if you can find it.