Most of us here in the tri-state area have never really been affected by tornadoes and hurricanes. At least not the kind that obliterate towns like folding dominos and destroy life as we know it.
So, when we saw the pictures of devastating destruction that ravaged Kentucky and four other states this month, undoubtedly, we were sad for the thousands of people in its path. Yet, as the coverage fades and time moves on, we probably won’t think much about something so many miles away that doesn’t seem to affect us.
Every time there is a tornado or hurricane, I am transported back to August 1992. A reporter for 6ABC in Philadelphia at the time, I was sent to Homestead Florida to cover Hurricane Andrew, a category five storm that leveled over 63,000 homes and killed sixty-five people.
I recall interviewing a new mother who couldn’t breastfeed. She had run out of infant formula but couldn’t get to the store because there were no stores. Even if she could have made it to a Red Cross tent, the streets were piled high with twisted metal and dangerous debris that blanketed the ground where houses and businesses once stood.
When I went on the air that night to tell her story, I became teary eyed, caught up in the enormity of what happened. Back in Philadelphia, the phones wouldn’t stop ringing as hundreds of viewers continually called asking how they could help.
The images of first responders crawling through debris and over casualties is still haunting. Almost thirty years later, I still wonder what happened to that mother, her newborn and so many others I met. While I imagine they’ve rebuilt homes, churches and have found ways to move on, I’m certain the memories remain just as vivid for those who survived.
My father used to tell my brothers and me that we were lucky to live where we did. He said here in PA, we didn’t have extreme weather like tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. My father is no longer alive to have witnessed the twisted metal that still lines streets in Upper Dublin township from the September tornadoes that tore through the region. The images of the Vine Street Expressway under fifteen feet of water and historic flooding throughout the city he grew up in would have left him speechless.
While significant weather events and temperature instability at this time of year are not unprecedented, our region still dodges more bullets than other areas of the country. However, it seems our local weathercasters repeatedly call temperatures “above normal” when mild temperatures hang on during the winter and summer nights aren’t as cool as they once were.
According to a senior spokesperson at the Prediction Storm Center in Norman Oklahoma “it is hard to attribute any one particular event to climate change.”
While climate change may not be solely to blame for more frequent weather events here in the northeast, it is hard to ignore it. The National Weather Service reports the decade from 2011-2020 was one of the hottest on record in the U.S. Regardless of the political divide and varying opinions on the importance of global warming, researchers at Yale University have reported that Americans continue to rank climate change as a critically important area of public concern.
While there are those who claim changing weather patterns are harmless, science continually tells us our planet is warming at an alarming rate and human activity is the principal cause.
Regardless of where you stand on whether climate change contributed to the recent storms, there are ways to answer the call for help in Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas like so many did when I covered Hurricane Andrew.
- Donate to help provide shelter, meals, supplies and assistance
- Give blood
If you are concerned about global warming and wondering what you can do moving forward without making sweeping expensive time consuming changes, Conservation International shares little behavior tweaks that can make a big difference.
- Use energy wisely. When a bulb blows or an appliance goes, replace it with an energy efficient product.
- Lower the heat and air conditioning when you’re away
- Carpooling, public transport, walking and bike riding reduce transportation emissions.
- Clean or replace your HVAC filters
- When available use natural light to save energy
- When shopping online, combine multiple orders into single shipments
- Switch to rechargeable batteries
- Put your computer to sleep when it’s not in use
- Use reusable coffee cups
As 2021 ends, there are so many divisive issues that Americans can’t agree on. Healthcare, immigration, climate change, vaccine and mask mandates, public education, gay marriage and more.
Perhaps when it comes to helping others however, we can find a way to agree that inaction is not an option.