TURES COLUMN: With weather, you only have one chance to get it right

Published 9:30 am Saturday, January 14, 2023

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When a series of tornadoes slammed into Troup County, Georgia yesterday, putting our town of LaGrange, Georgia as the lead on the Weather Channel yesterday afternoon, a fellow attendee at the Governor’s Inaugural Ball last night told me “With weather, you only have one chance to get it right.” That’s true for a lot of elements about the crisis, from preparation to as the storm hits, to the aftermath, to thinking long term about the problem.

While most residents of Troup County were getting Ttornado watches and warnings, I was in Atlanta, visiting our oldest child. So I was in vehicular gridlock as a funnel cloud opened from above, with tornado sirens blaring. When my kid opened the dorm to get me into the shelter, we heard the telltale sound of the wind.  I thought I would have the scariest afternoon of the family.  I was wrong.

My teacher wife and youngest kid were huddled in the basement of their school as twisters tore across Troup County. She texted me the devastation from the north to the south of our house and school. I got to see it first hand, driving by the high school and southside of town around midnight. I heard stories that residents just had mere minutes to duck for cover. One chance.

Governor Kemp took time from his reelection victory lap to note the devastation to the state, from West Georgia to Griffin to parts East of Atlanta. State Representative Vance Smith and State Senator Randy Robertson took time from the party to assure me they were in contact with law enforcement. City councilman Leon Childs Jr. told me of local churches were already setting up shelters and fund drives to help residents devastated by the blow. I listened to our County Manager Eric Mosley on WTRP 620 AM this morning document what was being done, and needed to be done. Many locals made the most of their one chance to get it right.

From students and others across the state, I heard of school dismissals that were occurring in the midst of the tornado watch and warning. That could have made things so much worse.  Hopefully, all school districts in Georgia and Alabama will review their dismissal policies in a storm. Remember, with weather, you only get one chance to get it right.

When the full magnitude of the disaster became apparent to others attending the festivities at State Farm Arena, that’s when one of the attendees made that quote. This person wasn’t talking about short-term responses, but long-term behavior and consequences. “We keep treating the weather like it’s some sort of science experiment, and we can’t keep doing that.”

Yes we’ve had tornadoes in the past, but in early January? When the weather whips around from the 70s to the teens, you can’t expect this to be consequence free, as well as what it means for our farmers. An increasing number of Democrats, Independents and yes, Republicans, are understanding that these climate shifts are real, and no accident or rare freak of nature.  This week alone, we’ve learned about record high overall temperatures expected this decade, topping only the last two decades for record heat . We know about 18 storms that each did more than a billion dollars of damage each in the USA and the continued toll it takes on our economy, and what’s likely to come with inaction, or making it worse.  It’s time to develop those technological solutions and lifestyle modifications to this great planet that God gave to care for. We only have this one chance to get it right, not just for the plants and animals, but especially ourselves.