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What The Nebraska Tornadoes Did

The Mighty Favog, an Omaha blogger, has some words about the twin tornadoes that destroyed the small Nebraska town of Pilger this week:

Tornadoes are not “awesome” vortexes.

They are not meteorological Cialis for thrill-seekers and storm chasers.

Tornadoes are not a cost-effective source of the “Holy shit!” reality TV usually seen on The Weather Channel instead of, you know . . . the weather.

God did not invent them so that you might be amused and awed on Facebook . . . by viral videos shot by storm chasers “ready anytime the moment’s right.”

No, this is a tornado. Look at it hard.

If you read his entire message [1] — and you should — you will see an AP photo of emergency responders removing the body of a little girl killed by the tornado. This is real life.

This, sent by Jake Meador in Lincoln, is also real life: [2]

The parking lot at Wisner-Pilger High School is packed with cars. More than 1,600 volunteers went through the doors to get registered to help clean up in Pilger. Volunteers are asked not to go directly to Pilger, but to come to the school and go through the registration process.

“Really it’s a safety issue more than anything else. They have this very well set up and very well organized. They want to make sure that everyone is safe and stays safe. This is just absolutely a disaster area…it’s very unsafe in areas and they just want to make sure everyone is properly informed as to what they’re getting into,” said Chad Boyer, Spokesperson for Pilger Volunteer Effort.

The town of 350 Nebraskans was destroyed … and 1,600 Nebraskans rushed into what is still a “very unsafe” area to help. Says Jake, of his home state, “I love Nebraska.” Who wouldn’t? Bless those people.

22 Comments (Open | Close)

22 Comments To "What The Nebraska Tornadoes Did"

#1 Comment By Ann Olivier On June 19, 2014 @ 3:43 am

1,600 people rushed in to help, God bless them. Now are they going to support alternative energy sources to reduce the incidents of such terrible events?

#2 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On June 19, 2014 @ 5:23 am

White bread white folks. Pace Susan Sontag, God love ’em!

#3 Comment By Marcus Jay On June 19, 2014 @ 7:32 am

I think he doth protest too much. I grew up in tornado alley. Still live there. I’ve seen the destructive power of tornadoes, but I’m still fascinated by them.

#4 Comment By RB On June 19, 2014 @ 9:00 am

Oh, God bless them. I wish I could help. I don’t miss the tornado stuff from living in Nebraska, but I do miss the people.

Prayers too for Calli’s family. What a gut-wrenching loss.

#5 Comment By Astra On June 19, 2014 @ 9:35 am

A tornado can be both thrilling and destructive. I have spent most of my life in Colorado. The mountains are stunning, beautiful, awesome, and deadly. This is a false dichotomy.

#6 Comment By Pat On June 19, 2014 @ 9:45 am

I’m with Marcus. Probably even worse; I also like watching videos of volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and that one last year where the lake ice crept up on land and invaded people’s homes.

Don’t know why, any more than I know why some folks like Game-of-Thrones style violence.

#7 Comment By grumpy realist On June 19, 2014 @ 9:54 am

It’s geography. Other countries get earthquakes or typhoons, we get tornadoes.

#8 Comment By Rachel On June 19, 2014 @ 9:59 am

How does it trivialize the suffering of tornado victims to shoot videos of tornados and post them on the internet?

#9 Comment By The Wet One On June 19, 2014 @ 10:05 am

I’m inclined to say “So is war, yet look how excited some Americans get about that.”

Not entirely the same thing, but not entirely dissimilar is it?

#10 Comment By Johann On June 19, 2014 @ 10:22 am

Ann – “Now are they going to support alternative energy sources to reduce the incidents of such terrible events?”

There is no scientific evidence that tornado activity has increased. Population has increased however and so tornadoes do more damage.

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#11 Comment By M_Young On June 19, 2014 @ 11:15 am

I agree with Astra.

The Fukushima tsunami was extraordinarily deadly, but it was fascinating to watch the incredible power of the earth and sea manifested. So yeah, give a thought and two and three for the human suffering, but don’t feel guilty about being enthralled with seeing the massive force of nature.

#12 Comment By M_Young On June 19, 2014 @ 11:16 am

I second Grumpy.

#13 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On June 19, 2014 @ 11:48 am

They have grit. Nothing more need be said.

#14 Comment By DG On June 19, 2014 @ 11:57 am

The above link to Favog’s site should have a warning about the photo at the top of his article; it is more than a little jarring and absolutely heartbreaking.

#15 Comment By Francis On June 19, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

The relatively unique conditions that favor Tornado develop in the Central USA is such that I am not surprised that data has not shown an measurable increase Tornado activity, one reason being that areas with the most current Tornado activity have shown and will show the least temperature increase. What will probably happen is that the area of damaging Tornadoes will move north.

Of course only time will tell as the Earth is just entering a period of more rapidly increasing temperature change.

Interestingly, since Continental Canada’s’ temperature will see the great increase and Tornadoes depend upon a clash of cold and warm, humid, one of the few benefits to Global Climate Change might be decreased Tornado activity in the USA.

#16 Comment By Sean Scallon On June 19, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

It’s easy for the media and storm chasers to get a kick out tornadoes because they don’t have to stick around and clean up the mess afterwards. They move on to the next storm. But believe me, it’s like cleaning up after a battle took place. The destruction can total and fatal. This isn’t about ratings or cheap thrills to the survivors.

The sad thing is, there’s talk that this storm may well be end of the town of Pilger if insurance money isn’t enough to rebuild all the homes and businesses destroyed. That’s how devestating these storms can be.

#17 Comment By SKB On June 19, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

Regarding the comment that Nebraskans (apparently because they are denizens of flyover country) have been insufficiently politically correct on energy:

Nebraska is the reason we don’t have a finished Keystone pipeline.

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Nebraskans deserve our support and prayers.

#18 Comment By charles cosimano On June 19, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

“Now are they going to support alternative energy sources to reduce the incidents of such terrible events?”

Apples and oranges. Tornadoes are the result of geography and nothing more.

#19 Comment By dominic1955 On June 19, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

“1,600 people rushed in to help, God bless them. Now are they going to support alternative energy sources to reduce the incidents of such terrible events?”

Others have already piled on, but I figured I would as well.

Nebraska (or at least the land that the state now occupies) has ALWAYS had tornadoes, at the very least as long as we have written and oral records from the people who have lived there.

Tornadoes “do more damage” because we can hear all about what they did on the 6 o’clock news or the internet almost immediateloy. However, they kill less people because of the early warning systems we have in place. Often they touch down in pastures or other uninhabited areas and nothing much happens. Once in a while they do something like this and take out most of a small town. Where I grew up there hasn’t been a tornado at least since the Indians were settled there and their stories said the area was special and protected from them, so they didn’t have them either. It all just depends.

I personally don’t worry about them much. Something could happen, sure, but chances of your house being leveled by one is not very high.

#20 Comment By Erin Manning On June 19, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

Sean, has anyone from Pilger set up a fund for these people? I think that lots of us would be honored to send a few dollars Pilger’s way in honor of little Doctor Cali. If the Internet features tornado gawkers, it also features a community of people who might never have heard of Pilger let alone found a way to help in Pilger’s hour of need.

#21 Comment By The Mighty Favog On June 19, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

I have no problem with storm chasers, per se, particularly when they’re chasing the things to gather scientific data. On the other hand, how damned many storm chasers must there be?

Sometimes, there are so many chasing a tornado-producing storm they nearly cause traffic jams. And what is the purpose of storm chasers who are just there to get photos and videos that merely satisfy our craving for “storm porn”?

Yes, these storms ARE fascinating. I get that. I, too, am fascinated by them and have been too bloody close for comfort to an EF-3 when I was a kid in Baton Rouge. But I despise some chasers’ — and the media outlets they keep fat and happy with a diet of storm porn — delight over getting great shots and seeing an “awesome” twister when that is No. 1 in their minds, as opposed to what these damnable storms DO, which is tear up s*** and maim and kill people.

It’s the same reaction we native Louisianians had to Yankee students at LSU who would get all excited that a hurricane might be on the way because of the thrill of it all. You don’t want to know what one classmate, who in 1965 had to swim with her family out of the second story of their New Orleans home during Hurricane Betsy, had to say about those folks.

See Walker Percy’s “Lost in the Cosmos” for a philosophical explanation of the “thrill of it all” enthusiasts. I suspect that’s in play for many of these “storm chasers” not out there for sound scientific reason.

Oddly enough, the photo on my post was taken by one of those chasers, who faced much outrage on scene and on the Internet for taking that picture and others. Rescuers called him a “vulture.”

Much of the Internet outrage was due to a Twitter post he was foolish enough to write before Pilger: “I need some highly photogenic and destructive tornadoes to make it rain for me financially.”

That was a deeply stupid and awful thing to say in public, much less put on the Web. Still, I’m glad he took the picture, because that one shot showed the reality — the sheer horror — of tornadoes more than anything he’d ever done before . . . or anything that most other storm chasers had done before. And the people who called him a vulture might have been right on a macro level but were wrong in that particular instance. The photo needed to be taken because we needed to understand.

Someone needs to show us all the horrible things we’d rather not see, because we need to know how horrible they are. As someone with a journalism background, I’d like to think I would have taken the picture, too. I’d also like to think I would have taken it during a brief moment while I was otherwise doing everything I could to help those who so desperately needed aid. The challenge of journalism in such cases is in finding the balance between gathering the news and maintaining your humanity.

On the positive side, I’m thinking this is one storm chaser who now is, first, never going to post another tweet about the need for “photogenic and destructive tornadoes,” and, second, now is going to go about his profession a lot differently. At least I hope so.

Bottom line, we need some storm chasers, perhaps even some of the “journalistic” types, particularly those from broadcast news outlets who provide critical and life-saving, up-to-the-second updates on storms. What we don’t need is so damned many of them, or so many “mercenary” storm chasers . . . or so many cable-TV programs that merely feed our fallen, apocalypse-loving need to see stuff torn the hell up.

Like I said in the blog post, we can change the channel — and usually do once we become bored after slaking our thirst for mayhem. Places like Pilger, Neb., can’t, and neither can the family of “Doctor Cali.”

Apocalypse isn’t nearly so fun when you — or the people and places you love — are on the business end of it. And it goes on for a long, long time.

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#22 Comment By margaret59 On June 19, 2014 @ 7:03 pm

I am in agreement with The Mighty Favog. These people who are chasing these storms for profit and thrills and getting all disappointed when a tornado doesn’t touch down, or when they don’t see it are absolutely revolting. I am a Kansan and I have seen first hand what these storms do. I don’t understand why anyone would WANT to see one touch down. Ever.