Take weather disaster warnings seriously

Published 8:49 am Tuesday, June 26, 2012

With all the news recently about Tropical Storm Debby and the coming hurricane season, I couldn’t help but remember the most recent times that my family was affected by natural disasters.

Strangely, in the last seven years or so, my immediate family has been in the path of major storms. But thankfully, the only thing that we have ever lost in those storms were material possessions, which can be replaced.

In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, my parents lost the condo they were planning to eventually retire in. I still remember looking it up on Google’s satellite photos page, and scrolling over until I could see the only thing that was left — the green pavement where the garage floor was, and four little indentations that were the shafts for the small elevators in the condos. Eventually, I was able to visit Gulfport, Miss., and find the location itself — that was a very eerie experience.

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It was a Christmas tradition for the family to gather at the condo in Gulfport, so I have vivid memories of enjoying the holidays there. We lost some family heirloom decorations in the storm, and I know that made my mother very sad. However, we are thankful that all we lost was bricks and mortar, and also thankful that it wasn’t our primary home. I know there are thousands of people who were displaced by that storm and some are still trying to put their lives together. We were very lucky.

I felt even luckier six years later, in April 2011, when I got a phone call from my sister, who was attending graduate school at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Of course, that was the month that a horrible tornado ripped through northern Alabama, including right down the center of the University’s campus. I can’t put into words how thankful I was to hear her voice and hear the words, “I’m okay.”

She was lucky, because she didn’t lose any friends in the storm. However, she did have friends of friends who were killed. I can’t even imagine how hard an experience that would be to live through. I was happy to read the story of the Auburn football players who went up to Tuscaloosa and helped out. It reminds us that tragedies affect everyone, and we should put aside our differences and do whatever we can to help.

Then, just earlier this year, a tornado went through Branson, Mo., where my parents and brother now live. Thankfully, the damage was relatively minor and nobody lost their lives in that area. Even so, I didn’t stop being nervous until I managed to reach both my brother and parents and learn that they were okay.

As we move further into the hurricane and disaster season, I hope that we all take weather warnings and safety suggestions seriously. It can certainly be a hassle to crowd into a windowless room, or head to a basement, but in many instances those simple actions have saved people’s lives.

Justin Schuver is the managing editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at justin.schuver@thepostsearchlight.com.