Keep a weather eye

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's a staggering statistic: so far this year, 100 people in the United States have been killed in tornadoes. Accordng to the National Weather Service, this is the worst death toll in ten years. And we still have at least a month to go this spring, as well as late fall in the South.

This weekend, tornadoes hit three communities north of Waterloo in Eastern Iowa. Parkersburg, New Hartford and Dunkerton were hit hard, with six people losing their lives and many more losing nearly every worldly possession they have.

On Wednesday, President Bush signed a disaster declaration for the area, freeing up federal resources to help local and state officials in the cleanup.

The cleanup will be daunting. In Parkersburg, population 1,000, 222 homes were destroyed, 21 businesses were destroyed and more than 400 homes were damaged. Among the buildings destroyed were the city hall, the high school and the town's sole grocery store and gas station.

The images from the afflicted area are sobering. It brings home the need for every household to prepare a plan and gather supplies for a disaster.

According to the Red Cross, your family should pick two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency, such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Choose an out-of-state friend as your "family check-in contact" for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Discuss what you would do if advised to evacuate.

A "disaster kit" should be prepared that includes the following:

* A 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil

* One change of clothing and footwear per person

* One blanket or sleeping bag per person

* A first aid kit, including prescription medicines

* Emergency tools, including a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio

* Flashlight and plenty of extra batteries

* Extra set of car keys and a credit card or cash

* Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members

It won't hurt a thing to make these preparations. In fact, being prepared might just save your life.