To the editor:
Last year, the tornado sirens sounded twice in Lawrence. Both of these times I was on location spotting for the county. On June 29, I hurried back into town from near the Lawrence airport where I had been shooting photographs of the approaching storm, which had just dropped a tornado near Perry Lake. As I approached the EOC on New Hampshire, I was amazed to see dozens of people crowding out of businesses to look up at the approaching storm. These people were metaphorically looking into the headlight of an oncoming train from the middle of the railroad tracks.
With that said, and some people questioning why all of it mattered, I would like to point to Oct. 4 on last year's calendar. Again, I was on location west, northwest of the city watching rain cover my windshield. Also spotting that day were at least a dozen other spotters who saw no funnel or anything highly unusual. The reason nothing was seen is that the storm was generating so much precipitation that an actual tornado was completely obscured from as close as a mile. No sirens were sounded that day. However, a family just sitting down to dinner was shocked when their roof flew off, sucked away by a small vortex that was confirmed several days later by the National Weather Service.
I have 10 years of experience in chasing and many in SKYWARN have more. Still, we are only as good as our eyes and what our trained senses can show us. It is important for everyone to listen to what the National Weather Service and, locally, what the Douglas County office of Emergency Management has to say. Paula Phillips, the director of Emergency Management makes excellent decisions on when to deploy SKYWARN and when to sound the tornado sirens.
Those sirens are sounded only when lives and property are in a very real state of danger. Lightning, floods, straight line wind and, yes, tornadoes can all destroy lives and property. Take time this week to think about your preparedness. Take time this week, during Severe Weather Awareness Week, to remember that we are all at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Christopher L. King,