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August 30, 2011 - Ron Flaviano
As a small child, I was always very aware and wary of the weather conditions during the summer. Summer meant violent thunderstorms and tornadoes were possible. I don’t know why I was so concerned with severe weather, as my sister didn’t seem to get that upset. But for me, every time a tornado watch came on the television, I collected all of my toys and stuffed animals and moved them to the basement. There was one summer in the 1970s that we had so much bad weather, that I kind of set up shop in the basement with all of my stuff.
The other seasons, in my mind, didn’t hold as much potential danger as summer did. Of course there are winter blizzards and freakish storms that happen in the other seasons, but summer was always more threatening. I remember the pinkish hue that the sky would turn - which my dad always said was a sign of bad weather. The sudden stillness of the trees, or the way the wind would turn the undersides of the leaves over.
As an adult, I am still concerned about the weather - and this summer has brought its share of bad situations across the U.S.
Hurricane Irene, with its strong winds and heavy rains, caused the loss of many lives and billions of dollars in damage. I have family and friends in Maryland and New York, and I was keeping tabs on them with Facebook, making sure they were prepared for what the storm could bring. I watched the progress of the storm and hoped that it would weaken before it hit the coastal areas. It did, but Irene still caused massive destruction.
The Indiana State Fair also sticks out in my mind as another freakish weather event this summer. Just about a month ago, a severe gust of wind brought down the entire stage rigging at a Sugarland concert at the fair. Seven men, women and children lost their lives when the massive amount of heavy lights, sound equipment and the structure itself collapsed. Although the fair officials had been paying a close watch on the impending poor weather, the opportunity to evacuate passed, and that’s when the severe wind caused the tragedy. No fewer than four outdoor stages collapsed this summer due to wind.
What these two weather events reinforced in me this summer is:
1. Always pay attention to weather warnings. Be aware of where you are, and where the bad weather is.
2. In an outdoor event or amusement park, be alert of changing weather conditions. If you observe rapidly deteriorating weather, try to find the safest place to take cover.
3. Always be aware of the exits, and have an idea of where to seek shelter. Never overestimate the strength of outdoor pavilions, stages or tents - none of them are meant to contend with the worst of Mother Nature.
4. Do not risk driving through deep water. Back up if you can, and seek an alternate route. Once your vehicle is disabled, it may be impossible for you to get out and seek safety.
5. Use common sense. If the weather is already somewhat menacing, stay home or in a safe place.
Weather is a force of nature, and it cannot be controlled. Paying attention to the weather and warnings can save your life.
My prayers and thoughts are with the friends and families of those that lost their lives this summer due to extreme weather.
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