Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reflections From Saturday

A flood of emotions have overwhelmed me over the last few days and I took Monday off. As I covered Saturday's tornadic weather with our weekend meteorologist Eric Law, I had hoped the day wouldn't be as I had been predicting all week.

Eric and I went wall-to-wall with our weather coverage shortly after 11am Saturday and didn't stop until 7pm. There is a disturbing feeling I cannot explain when you see a massive tornado signature on the radar, knowing the death and destruction it is about to bring, and trying to warn the public to take cover and not wait! Besides literally screaming at the camera lens, my hands are tied and there comes a point when I feel like I can't save everybody. Well, I felt like that Saturday.

The National Weather Service has surveyed most of the damage and found where the strongest tornado was an EF4 tornado, packing 170 mile per hour sustained winds. Other "smaller" tornadoes were classified as EF3 tornadoes with 150-165 mile per hour sustained winds. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has calculated 752 homes and 189 mobile homes damaged or destroyed. The estimated damage costs is $50 million for those homes and businesses that have been lost. The long track tornado went 149 miles! For Mississippi, that is staggering as we don't see many long track tornadoes (those are mostly in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma events).

Butch Smith sent me this picture of the tornado just outside of Yazoo City. This is by far the best picture of the tornado that I've seen.
So why has this upset me so? Well, because I see this destruction from a different perspective than most meteorologists and news reporters---I've been there before. In looking at the video Saturday afternoon when our crews returned to the newsroom, I saw the shock, utter disbelief and confusion the tornado victims had on their face and I remembered those emotions very well. As I was talking about the aftermath on WLBT, I began to crack. I remembered looking at my damaged house in 2001 (F4 Madison tornado), seeing my obliterated subdivision and my zombied neighbors and wondered, what do I do next? Where do I go? Where do I even start?

Then I started hearing of the deaths from Saturday, 3 of which were children. Did they not know the tornado was coming? Where they not watching tv? If they were watching me at the time, was I not urgent enough in my voice? Was there something else I could have said that would have convinced them that this was serious? I just don't know.

But I do know that there will be more tornadoes and there will likely be more deaths. Take the weather seriously and heed the warnings. Have a NOAA Weather Radio. Although there are some instances when we predict tornadic events and nothing this extreme happens, it just takes one episode like this to make a believer out of you.


The Miller's Blog said...

Wow. you are such a compassionate person. If I were in your same shoes, I know I would be asking the same questions of myself. But from an outsiders point of view, there was nothing YOU could have done. You were right, your hands were tied. Short of weathering the storm yourself and going door to door screaming at people, there was not much else to be done. You did your job, all else was in God's hand. It was so strange how the weather was so random. Here in Florence the weather was worse on Friday than it was on Saturday. We even had lots of sunshine on Saturday. I had no idea the pack that the storm punched until that afternoon. We all think in the back of our heads that this COULD happen to us, but I think most of the time we convince ourselves that it won't ever happen to us as individuals. Until you are a victim of it, or know someone personally that is, you will never fully appreciate the how seriously to take the warnings. Thanks for your compassion and your sweet spirit and a heart after God. I have really enjoyed reading your words and have added you to my blog roll do that I can get the updates each time you post. Much love-Mandy

Andy said...

Just so you'll know, the Choctaw County area doesn't get WLBT.

Barbie Bassett said...

Thanks for your comment, Andy. Yes, I am aware of that. However, those on cable get us as far north as G'ville, G'wood, Winona and Louisville.

Anonymous said...

Think about all the lives that were saved because you gave them a warning to take cover. It could have been so much worse.

Amy Ingram said...

Sweet Barbie. You have such a heart to teach the people around you. Not just through your weather forecasts, but through your faith. It is possible that our sweet Jesus allowed you to experience life through a storm so that you could provide an immense amount of compassion that most will never understand. Hang in there. It's not fair; certainly - dwell on that sweet mother that did know about the weather and laid down her life for her precious ones. You are doing a great job, and I sensed the urgency in your voice (as well as your compassion in the situation). Press on.

fancy nancy said...

Thank you for sharing. You truly are amazing! I have been watching you since you first became a meteorologist and feel like I know you. Keep up the great work - you really do touch many lives!

Anonymous said...

You have to remember that you could only help WLBT viewers. You are in no way responsible for viewers of other stations, or for people who get their news via Internet, newspaper, and radio. You are also in no way responsible for forcing the WLBT viewers to prepare themselves to take action. In the grand scheme of things, you can only do a little bit; but that's better than not reporting the weather at all and doing nothing. If you only saved one life, you did your job. God knows who died, got injured, and sustained damaged, and He knows their needs.