The July 19, 2006 storm started as a small super cell along the Minnesota-Iowa border. The super cell dropped across eastern Iowa along a stationary cool front, where it developed into a squall line heading for the Illinois State capitol of Springfield. The storm appeared to be moving towards central Indiana; at least that is what the weather gurus thought. During the 5:00 news, television meteorologists downplayed the chance that the storm would affect the city of St. Louis. By 6:00, the tone in their voices and the whites of their eyes told a dramatically different story.
The radar was ablaze in red, as the storm turned right from Springfield and moved towards the city. I thought it was prudent to take the dog for a walk before the storm hit. An unusually strong gust front preceded the storm. The wind blew trees over and busted limbs off huge Sycamores, hurling them like missiles into the ground. The dog and I frantically ran home, barely beating the resultant onslaught by three minutes.
The July 19, 2006 storm was the most violent I have ever encountered. The wind was relentless, and it reminded me of the video recorded during hurricanes. I heard a couple of loud crashes, which were tree limbs falling onto my neighbor’s car. A strange sound came from the eerily green sky. It was a sound similar to the one discussed on The Weather Channel (TWC). The sound was a fifteen to twenty second mid-level roar, like a small train engine starting up at the depot. Debris swirled and the rain move horizontally across the horizon. The storm lasted thirty minutes, but the devastation it left in its wake lasted for weeks.
The widespread destruction looked like an entire country’s stockpile of cruise missiles had exploded in my neighborhood. The power flickered on and off for an hour before finally going off for five days. It was not until the power came back on that I learned about a unique weather phenomenon called a Derecho. In Spanish, Derecho means right turn, and this is exactly how the violent storm unexpectedly moved towards St. Louis. The unexpected nature of the storm, coupled with its ferocity, demonstrated three important elements for surviving a storm or natural disaster.
Back power sources such as generators are indispensible components of storm survival supplies, especially during power losses that occur during extreme heat waves and cold snaps. If you do not own a generator, make sure to stock your storm supplies with camping grade flashlights and floodlights. Stock enough water and dry foods to get you through a ten day power outage. Always check to ensure your first aid kit is fully stocked; emergency personnel will be overwhelmed during the aftermath of a severe storm or natural disaster. You should also know the quickest way to evacuate from your neighborhood. Once my power went off, I knew my dog would be I n distress due to the excessive heat and humidity. The evacuation route I planned in my head came in handy when I transported my best friend to a safe haven.
Rule number one for surviving a storm or natural disaster is protecting your family and property. Rule number two is to look after your neighbor’s family and property. One of the more disheartening aspects of a storm’s aftermath is the vermin who loot and plunder private property. Moreover, community cohesion ensures neighbors do not suffer without food and water, and that they can recover from the psychological effects of storm damage. After the Derecho hit our neighborhood, neighbors coalesced to move tree limbs, cut thick Sycamore trunks, and repair damage to windows and home facades.
The aftermath of a violent storm of destructive natural disaster leaves deep emotional scars. Patience gives you the backbone to withstand the worst conditions and the discipline to weather inept responses from utility companies and public officials. Leaning on neighbors and returning the support in kind bolsters patience levels. Without my next-door neighbor, I may have exploded during the third day of the post storm ordeal. The electric company was set to repair the blown down power lines in the alley when the workers received a more urgent call from their central command. We were about ten minutes from air conditioning and refrigeration. Instead, the electric company did not return for another three days. My next-door neighbor provided enough encouragement to dissuade me from exhibiting impulsive emotions.
Most storms and virtually all natural disasters are unexpected events that cause immense suffering. The best way to survive a storm of natural disaster is stocking up on enough supplies to last a lengthy power outage. You will need to summon an almost infinite amount of patience, which means leaning on your neighbors for support. After all, people who bond together in the face of adversity are a more potent force than the power of one.