Friday, June 13, 2008

Death From Above

Amidst the carnage of tornadic storms that literally formed all along the collision of fronts that met over the eastern part of the state of Nebraska Wednesday, the few bright spots during this night of terror were the small towns and cities that could have sustained much more damage than they did.

The massive cold front that was met with hot moist air caused such a horrendous storm front to appear in an almost straight line from Omaha all the way southwest to Grand Island, that many thought the end of the world was at hand. Watching the radar screens as the beast crept slowly eastward, the sirens began blaring in the background. Not completely unusual for this part of the country, the insistence and intensity of the storms began to give way to panic among many residents.

Human curiosity being what it is, many people ventured outside for a glimpse of whatever tornado the sirens and radar screens decreed was on the ground in Lincoln, Nebraska. But as the siren receded, everyone began going about their business as usual. Not five minutes later, more sirens began blaring out their warnings, and this time people did take cover, as a humongous super cell formed seemingly out of nowhere directly over the city proper.

Torrents of rain flew almost vertically at high speed, enough to cause literal pain when waves of water slapped against the body, but yet, oblivious, people still ventured out again to watch the tornado that dropped out of the sky not ten blocks from where we all stood. Almost silent in it's sneaking down to the ground behind the Husker Stadium jumbotron, we were awestruck as we awaited it's destruction. At the last possible second, mother nature spared the massive electronic billboard, as the tornado dissipated as quietly as it appeared.

Within about one minute however, the super cell was passing directly over our heads, looking for all the world to be a hell spawn demon, blackest of black sky swirling in a perfect circle, with lighting streaming across the sky and striking so close to where we were standing on the rooftop, that the reverberation of thunder shook the entire neighborhood like a rag doll. By the grace of God, it passed over and dropped another small tornado onto 33rd street. Once again however it teasingly flew back up into the sky, moving off to the northeast until it reached 70th street, where it destroyed an indoor tennis complex.

Keeping track of happenings in nearby towns, we listened as Aurora was hit with a twister, as well as Beatrice, Crete, Elkwood, and as the storms intensified and moved towards Omaha and points north, Plattsmouth, Bellvue, the north side of Omaha proper, and finally Little Sioux, Iowa, which is about an hour's drive north of Omaha.

Glued to the live Internet broadcasts from Omaha television, we all knew as soon as they said the campground was hit by a twister, there was going to be a loss of life. Officials tried to put on a brave face at the beginning, but given the area that death from above decided to land in, the lumps began to form in many area resident's throats. A bunch of kids really. Not even old enough to completely understand what was happening to them despite their training, were flung threw the air like scattering paper, and mother nature did what it always does, kills the vulnerable. Four dead Boy Scouts, more than forty others injured, we learned from scanners and the web. Innocents, trying to do what we encourage of them, mainly learn to be good and honest in an insane world, are gone or mangled because of a whim of whatever power watches over all of us.

We pray with the families of those who were lost, and ask a speedy recovery for the injured not just at Little Sioux Ranch, but all the rest who were hurt the other night, all those who lost homes and businesses, because the damage is quite extensive over the entire Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas corridor. In fact, the entire Mid-West has damage in one form or another, but the major flooding downed trees, power lines and swath of destroyed buildings seems to be along the path of where the super cells passed over.

What used to be an event that happened maybe once a storm season has now become almost routine. This is the third major cell system to strike this exact same area in the last two weeks, with predictions for more next week or even this weekend. With the heat and humidity at almost unbearable levels at this early stage of the summer season, there is no doubt we in the Plains are in for a rough ride. Let us hope and pray that mother nature will stay her hand and spare the lives of innocent babes such as those she decided to take from us, and for whom an entire nation now mourns.

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