Tuesday, May 28, 2013


   Some people prefer to live on the east coast of this country of ours. Some near the Gulf of Mexico. Both of these rather large geographical locations are prone to being struck by hurricanes... annually.
   A lot of other people, myself included, prefer the west coast, which happens to be prone to earthquakes... and volcanic eruptions... and frog rain, but here at least we don’t expect these disasters every year.
   All of the rest of our citizens are forced to live by default somewhere within the United States proper, some in the east and some in the west.
   My dear sister Cheryl at one time worked  as an exotic dancer (Watusi, Charleston... ironically the Twist) in the southeastern part of the country, Louisiana I believe, where she could have expected to be pelted by said hurricanes each year.
   Cheryl now has the good sense to live in Arizona, where it only gets hot. She left that area of the country (map above) where the tornadoes live.
   A tornado of course is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud (a dense towering vertical cloud associated with thunderstorms and atmospheric instability). They often develop from a class of thunderstorms known as supercells which contain areas of organized rotation a few mile up, and 1 to 6 miles across. As this area lowers beneath the base of the cloud it takes in cool, moist air, which converges with warm air in an updraft, forming a rotating wall cloud. As the convergence of cool and warm air intensifies a visible funnel descends to the surface of the earth. Tornadoes can last anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour.
   We’re number one! Tornadoes are more common in the United States than in any other country in the world, receiving more than 1,200 each year, four times the amount Europe gets (eat that Ireland!).
   We also get most of the biggest tornadoes, and most violent, those rated EF4 or EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (a scale introduced in 1971 by Tetsuya Theodore Fujita which rates the strength of tornadoes in the United States and Canada based on the damage they cause, EF1 being the least damaging, EF5 the most).
   The numbers vary slightly from whichever source is used, but this is the gist of it.
   Just over a week ago, when I was still in a coma, between May 18th and 20th, 76 tornadoes (or twisters, or cyclones) touched ground in 10 states, causing an estimated $2 billion to $5 billion in insured losses. The worst.. the most powerful of these, tragically, devastated the town of Moore Oklahoma a week ago last Monday, on May 20th.
   The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center provided the town with a warning 16 minutes before the tornado touched down at 3:01PM local time, which is greater than the average 8 to 10 minutes of warning, said Keli Pirtle, a spokeswoman for the center in Norman, Oklahoma.
   The notice was upgraded to emergency warning with "heightened language" at 2:56 p.m., or 5 minutes before the tornado touched down.
   The tornado, an EF5 with peak winds estimated at 210 miles per hour,  touched down west of Newcastle, staying on the ground from 39 to 40 minutes over a 17-mile path, crossing through a heavily populated section of Moore. The tornado was 1.3 miles wide at its largest.
    24 people died, including 10 children. 377 were injured.
   Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency on the day the tornado hit. President Obama declared a major disaster in the state, and offered federal aid to those affected. FEMA,  the Federal Emergency Management Agency deployed Urban Search and Rescue teams to the stricken areas, and provided incident command personnel to organize and support rescue efforts.   The Oklahoma National Guard was deployed. On Wednesday, the 22nd, the republican led Oklahoma State Senate voted 33 to 8 to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the state’s most reliable health care providers.
   Not to be out done the republican led House followed with a 65 to 12 vote to redirect funds allocated to private family care providers to public hospitals.
    While most of the state’s citizens attention was diverted toward tornado disaster relief the state Senate passed Senate Bill 900 without mentioning the bill on its legislative agenda, meaning that even if constituents were paying attention, they would not have known this issue was coming up on the Senate floor.
   One republican lawmaker, State Representative Doug Cox, who also happens to be a doctor, disagrees with the vote.
    “They perform a valuable service as far as breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, parenting classes, many things that benefit our state that we’re sorely in need of,” he said. He also said the vote was purely political, and that while some of his colleagues knew of Planned Parenthood’s value, because of the organization’s public perception as an abortion provider, they felt pressure to vote to defund it anyway.
   Despite former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl’s 2011 assertion: "Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors, and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don't have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does," which his office very quickly explained was "Not intended to be factual statement (which would make it a flat out lie)," only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion related.
   So what’s really up here? Only the idea of abortion is a political issue that has been tied successfully by the republicans, like Jon “Not Factual” Kyl, to Planned Parenthood, which has suffered through recent years with financial cutbacks despite the valuable and needed services it provides for women.
   This is not only stupid at face value, but it’s mean spirited, and detrimental to women who live in states controlled by republican governments.
   However republicans are mostly sociopathic and abortion happy, and though it is not currently an election year, republican controlled state legislatures have been in a prolonged campaign to restrict, or abolish abortion services within their states, simply forcing women to seek services elsewhere, which of course they will do.
   You get what you vote for I guess.
   Oklahoma’s two federal Senators, Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, are dealing with the Moore disaster in interesting ways. Both long time opponents of FEMA, Senator Inhofe (what kind of foreign sounding name is that anyway? Sounds like a commie to me) is now facing  criticism for trying to secure relief aid for his own state, while having voted down relief funds for the victims of Hurricane Sandy in states like New Jersey just a little while ago. That makes him... what is the word... oh yeah, a  hypocrite.
   Coburn on the other hand is trying to use Moore as a bargaining chip for further federal budget reductions, demanding cuts elsewhere before providing financial relief to his own state’s victims. I sincerely hope his constituents are watching.
   Being republicans they’re both climate change deniers, Inhofe being the most infamous in the entire Congress (who coincidentally received $550,950.00 from oil and gas interests in the form of campaign contributions through 2007-2012, according to OpenSecrets.org), so it’s not a little bit ironic that scientists believe that global warming is a top cause of the rise in the number of tornadoes, as well as other major climate events.
    More than 450 federal employees remain in Oklahoma a week after the tornado ripped through Moore. Officials said about 4,200 people had registered for a total of $3.4 million in immediate aid made available by FEMA. Rebuilding will cost billions, a portion coming from the federal government. This is one of the reasons we have a federal government, a fact tea party members of Congress choose to forget, dismiss, or ignore.
   Like Inhofe and Coburn, Governor Fallin has repeatedly claimed that the federal government is bloated and inefficient and needs to be reduced in size, including agencies like FEMA.
   “Our success stands in stark contrast to the record of dysfunction, failed policies and outrageous spending that occurs in Washington, D.C.” she told state lawmakers. “In Oklahoma, we could teach Washington a lesson or two about fiscal policy and the size and proper role of government.”
   Now, faced with the overwhelming size of the destruction and need for immediate emergency relief, and the future costs of reconstruction, she acknowledges “FEMA was very good to respond, and the president did call yesterday, and they did give us notice last night that our federal emergency disaster declaration was approved,” she said.
   Like those politicians, tea partiers, and others who clamer for reducing unemployment benefits for those out of work, or food stamps for those who can’t afford to eat, or welfare for the poor and disabled, you can’t really know what’s it’s like until it happens to you.

   “Plaza Towers Elementary, home of the Panthers, is located in the Southwest part of Moore. We have approximately 310 excellent students that continue to rank among the highest API for our district and state. Use the links to the left to learn more about our superior school.”
   The above statement can be found on Plaza Towers Elementary’s website. The school itself no longer exists. The third picture above is that of what is left of Plaza Towers. This is where 7 children were killed by the tornado. There was no safe rooms, or shelter in the school for them to go to. Why?
   Now of course  Mayor Glen Lewis has promised to propose an ordinance requiring every house built in town from now on to have a reinforced tornado shelter to reduce the number of deaths the next time a monster storm hits, which more than likely will happen again. But it seems it’s always after the fact, after the deaths, when these promises are made.
   Tornadoes have hit Moore in the past. Witnesses said last week’s tornado appeared more fierce than the giant twister that was among the dozens that tore up the area on May 3, 1999, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. That event ranks as the third-costliest tornado in U.S. history, having caused more than $1 billion in damage at the time, or more than $1.3 billion in today's dollars. Only the devastating Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama tornadoes in 2011 were more costly.
   The President visited Moore on Sunday, walking through the ruble that was once Plaza Towers Elementary.
   “This is a strong community with strong character,” Mr. Obama said as he stood with Governor Fallin, and other local officials. “There’s no doubt they will bounce back. But they need help.”
   “When I say that we’ve got your back, we keep our word,” Obama said outside the school.
   As for the community. Randy Sanders’ home, and that of his wife and daughter, was one of those completely destroyed by the twister. A picture of them together which had been in their home had been found... 120 miles away.
   His plans for the future?
   "We have every intention of rebuilding," Randy said " ...with the biggest storm shelter you've ever seen."

1 comment:

  1. Why were you in a coma? I believe you neglected to include the West's wild fires, which many times would not count as a "weather" event when they are caused by man, but many of them are caused by lightening.