Archive for Monday, July 6, 1992


July 6, 1992


The recent earthquakes and aftershocks in California, along with constant threats of additional fatal and destructive temblors in many western locales, probably have caused a lot of residents of Kansas to settle gladly for the erroneous label of ``tornado alley.''

Chances are, most Kansans wouldn't be willing to trade their natural disasters for those in unsettled California.

First off, a number of other states, such as Ohio, Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, annually record more tornadic activity than does Kansas. Further the Kansas death toll from twisters is far down the line in the final tabulations over the years. A good question to ask people who contend they are terribly fearful of tornadoes: How many people do they personally know of who have been killed or even injured by such storms? Far more often than not, there is no reply, or certainly a lot of hemming and hawing.

As for damage, tornadoes can do a great deal of it. For example, take the 1981 fatal storm which hit Lawrence, killing one, injuring about 30 and causing damage of more than $18 million.

But an important point to be made is that warning systems about tornadoes have greatly improved, access to shelters is far better than it once was, and there are, indeed, ways to escape death or injury with even a minimal amount of time to find cover.

Consider the earthquake, its ravages and its aftermath. There is seldom the type of warning that can be issued for a tornado, there is no way to ``secure'' property from a massive split in the earth's surface, and there is always the prospect for the followup, that aftershock which sometimes can be as deadly as the original rupture. As for security, about the only way to be safe is to be airborne at the time of the earthquake's strike, yet how many people can be taken out of harm's way by airplanes, helicopters and balloons? We at least have our basements and storm cellars.

Then consider the financial impact. Word is that Southern California's two strong temblors over the recent weekend could bring the state's earthquake recovery fund to the brink of bankruptcy. What happens if more quakes hit, anywhere in the state? Suppose there is rebuilding? What might additional earthquakes do?

Granted, Kansas may not be blessed with some of the geographical delights of California, such as mild climates, ocean fronts, beaches, mountains and great forests. But the Sunflower State doesn't live under the constant threat of a massive terrestrial rearrangement which could leave Nevada as beachfront property.

We don't like our tornadoes, in any way, and wish they never again would be a concern. We also take a public image beating because of the ``Dorothy and Oz'' syndrome that makes twister activity seem a lot more frequent and deadly than it really is for us.

But all things considered, we'll go with tornadoes over earthquakes. At least where twisters are concerned, there is a better chance of warning, and there are a lot more places to hide.

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