A weather radio can save your life. That was the second thought to go through my mind Monday. The first was a prayer for those in the path of the tornado that struck the Oklahoma City area. I’ve seen enough tornado damage to know how devastating they can be.
Sometimes only luck and shelter can spare you from a tornado. The destruction portrayed on television is terrible. It is worse when you’re standing in a neighborhood torn apart by one and the view is multi-dimensional. Shattered houses are difficult to fathom even when they’re in front of your eyes.
Weather radios are not new. But perhaps a reminder will someday save someone’s life. Maybe these words will be read by newcomers to Tornado Alley. It’s highly possible some people think about them but put off the purchase. Two standbys are counted on for tornado warnings. They’re probably in a tie for tops on most people’s list of how they know a twister is coming. One is the tornado siren, the other is television.
The first one is not reliable. Tornado sirens mostly came into existence during the Cold War when we feared nuclear attack. Emergency managers began turning them on when tornados approached and they helped many people. However, not all neighborhoods are covered by the sound. In fact, wind direction can mute how these sirens carry. When hail is falling on the roof and the wind is howling you may not hear them, either. Plus, modern houses have better insulation regarding temperature and noise. If you live in rural areas, as do many Platte Countians, sirens are further a moot point.
I personally have interviewed people who lived in neighborhoods struck by tornadoes. One especially bad one some years back sauntered through Riverside and Northmoor in southern Platte County. Then that twister moved into Clay County. Some modern suburbs in Kansas City North were viciously ripped up. The car that I drive daily was purchased from a dealership building on North Oak Trafficway that no longer exists because that tornado ripped it to shreds.
After that storm, as a reporter for The Kansas City Star, I fielded several calls from people complaining that they never heard the sirens go off. The sirens sounded, but you can’t be sure you’ll hear them. They were designed to be general emergency warnings, and they are not truly dependable.