Tuesday, April 17, 2012
by Bryan Walsh
(TIME) It could have been so much worse. Over 100 tornadoes ripped through several Plains states in just 24 hours over the weekend. Cars were tossed through the air and houses were pulverized. Hail the size of baseballs fell from the sky, crushing anything left in the open. More than what is ordinarily a month's worth of cyclones struck in a single day, yet miraculously, only one, in the Oklahoma town of Westwood, proved fatal, killing six victims who lived in and around a mobile-trailer park. "God was merciful," Kansas Governor Sam Brownback told CNN on Sunday.
But it wasn't just God or chance. The low death toll was also due to a faster and more insistent warning system by weather forecasters, who put the word out early and often and over many platforms that the past weekend could be a dangerous one for the Midwest, thanks to an unusually strong storm system. The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center took the unusual step of alerting people in the region more than a day before what was termed a possible "high-end, life-threatening event." Warnings went out over radios, smart phones and TVs, urging people to stay underground or in a tornado shelter for the duration of the storm. And with memories of the more than 500 people who died in cyclones last year still fresh, residents in the affected areas paid attention and stayed out of harm's way. Read More