Storms too close to home


Saturday evening, I stood at my back door, cringing each time a golf ball-sized ball of hail enthusiastically bounced off the hood of my car. When the hail storm passed, my husband and I went out to examine the damage.

“Look at the clouds,” he said, and we stared at the sky.

The clouds were flying, fluid, a river of clouds churning to life.

I ran back in the house to get my camera. As the sun set, I managed only one semi-focused shot of the wall cloud dropping out of the sky.

Wall Cloud over Emporia, Kansas

Wall cloud forming over Emporia, Kansas. The setting sun, gusting wind, and lack of tripod made for a not-so-impressive photo, but it's my photo.

The sirens sounded moments later.

It has only been a month since our online community friends, the Weavers, suffered their own tremendous losses during the April 27, 2011 Alabama tornado. Saturday night, we were hunkered down in our own basement, with our own guinea pigs, hoping this storm would blow past us.

Saturday night we were lucky. Our neighbors in Reading, Kansas, to the northeast, were not.

And less than 24 hours later, Mother Nature kicked more sand in our faces by ripping through Joplin, Missouri.

I’m not quite ready to talk about what it was like to listen to police scanners and amateur radio operators and Twitter feeds give a blow-by-blow of the aftermath, or about the tremendous sadness I felt as local radio station KVOE AM announced that the post office and volunteer fire department were hit, the grain silo was destroyed, the heart of the town was gutted.

It still makes makes me a little weepy.

But I do want to talk about how completely humbled I am by human generosity.

I want to talk about how within minutes of the Reading tornado, Jeremy Luby, a former Reading resident, set up a Facebook page. The next day, Luby set up a more formal web site where people could find information about survivors, volunteering to help clean up the town, and how to make donations. The Emporia Gazette constantly updated their web page with the latest information for survivors and those who wanted to help.

I want to talk about how people all over the state of Kansas collected emergency supplies, and still others, including the Kansas State Animal Response Team, took care of the family pets.

I want to talk about how Emporians, dressed in work clothes and work gloves and carrying bottles of water, boarded a bus to help clean Reading as soon our Lyon County’s rather amazing emergency management team gave them the go-ahead.

Because it was the right thing to do.

The tornado may leave scars. The community support will make sure the wounds heal.

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