Editorial: Twister of fate
Never scoff at a tornado warning. And always be thankful for tornado watches.
If Rowan Countyís experience with a twister back in the spring was not enough to convince people these warnings are legit, the tragedy that ripped through Davidson County Wednesday should be more than sufficient. A woman and her 3-year-old granddaughter died when a tornado completely destroyed the house around them, leaving nothing but a foundation and rubble.
Officials may never know if the woman had heard that a tornado might be on its way.
The storm did not come completely without warning. But as soon as a tornado warning was issued for Davidson around 5:30 p.m., a tornado with winds between 111-135 miles per hour was banging on the door.
Rowan County was under a tornado watch, first, and then a warning, and Davidson County officials believe the tornado touched down here before heading their way. (Rowan officials could not confirm that Thursday.) The tornado then landed in the Silver Valley community and cut a ě7- to 9-mile path of destructionî centered off U.S. 64 and N.C. 109, according to WXII television reports.
As always, tragedy struck at random, killing two people in one house sitting among many. And it went beyond North Carolina. Wednesdayís severe weather killed three people in South Carolina and a Georgia man crushed in his SUV by a falling tree.
The United States sees some 1,200 tornadoes a year on average, causing 60-65 fatalities and 1,500 injuries. But this has not been an average year; the tornado death toll for 2011 is more than 500, including 116 in Joplin, Mo.
If you learn a tornado may be headed your way, the National Weather Service has this advice:
At home: Take shelter immediately, preferably in an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If those are not available, go to a windowless interior room or hallway. If you are in a mobile home, leave it immediately and seek shelter in a sturdy building.
On the road: Donít think a highway overpass is a safe shelter; itís actually very dangerous. If you are in a car and canít get to shelter, experts offer two options: (1) Put on your seatbelt, put your head down below the windows and cover it with your hands or a blanket. Or (2) if you see a spot thatís lower than the roadway, get out of the car and lie down in that area with your hands over your head.
Meanwhile, we can all put our hands together and pray for the many families who have lost homes and lives to tornadoes this year. Technology can see storms coming, but itís little help in coping with loss.