Posted May Day, 2019
I won’t say that we were professional storm chasers growing up, but the Applegate household had an semi-unintuitive fascination with tornadoes. We were that family. We were prepared to jump in our house’s crawlspace, accessible through the garage floor, or equally so to zoom east just ahead of the twister to the Nazarene church at the end of our street, but we often just sat outside or drove around looking for tornadoes. My dad had driven an ambulance and knew a thing or two about the subject and about emergency first aid in a pinch. He is still a weather ninja at his spry age today.
Just a couple of experiences in our childhood:
We drove on I-44 on the way back from St. Louis one year and saw a tornado waaaaay too close, just a tad off of the Interstate going the opposite direction as they are wont to do (typically they drive right up either Highway 60, old Route 66 or I-44 from Oklahoma through the Joplin area, through Springfield and onward.). We blasted by just in the nick of time and watched out the back window.
Back in the early 1970’s, our Great Grandma Myrtle, perhaps one of the Christ-like folks I have ever known, had her house utterly destroyed by a significant tornado in Republic. Left unharmed was her nightstand with her Bible still on it, dry and still open. Grandma and her husband were horseback circuit ministers in the early to mid-1900s and could be a topic later at the cornbread table.
Later we stopped chasing tornadoes in person. Few things were more thrilling than sitting around in a huddle, listening to KTTS, our local country radio station (the only time I would normally listen to country music) with some popcorn as they had field spotters reporting what they were seeing from far too close to a storm. They used to have a particularly scary tone they played every minute or two signifying that there was a tornado warning in their huge coverage area.
Today I am still fascinated by storms although, with a family, we tend to duck-and-cover rather than than chase. I serve as the SeniorAge representative in our local CO-AD (community organizations active in disaster) and am point person for seniors should a major disaster hit the area. I have also been fortunate to have time to assist in the cleanups of several tornadoes including a couple of weeks with the Joplin, Missouri tornado and the Hurricane Katrina recovery and cleanup operations. I also serve with a great group of folks in COVER (Community Organizations for Vulnerable Emergency Recovery) This group seeks ways to help those who have barriers to safety in a disaster get information and develop a plan. We strongly advocate for following the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services “Ready in 3” plan to mitigate the effects of a disaster.
A couple nuggets of wisdom I can spoon out from these life experiences relates, in a round about way, to our dementia discussion here:
If you are a caregiver in home, be prepared for weather and other disastrous events. If you do not have an accessible basement, find a church or other shelter that meets your needs. Have a go-bag of some sort with similar gear as recommended in the Ready in 3 disaster kit, but tailored to your specific context. Will you have guaranteed transportation? (Have a backup plan?). Will your shelter allow pets? Can your loved one endure the move? Do you have medical equipment that has to come too? Take time and think it through. 🙂
Similarly, learn and study dementia when you have time and please prepare before you need to be prepared. My family, amazingly enough considering where I work, was ill-prepared for it to happen to us. Could you or a loved one be aging or be genetically predisposed to have Alzheimer’s/dementia (have multiple, close relatives who suffer with it)? Does a loved one show signs? Enlist medical help and start building your support structure as fast as you can, when decision-making is still relatively easier. Call your area agency on aging senior center and/or the Alzheimer’s Association field office and start learning and preparing for the perhaps inevitable storm. There is no good time to prepare when you can see the tornado from your house. Prepare early. Worst case you are prepared and can help someone else should the dementia devils skip your home.
Mom did well again yesterday although she is still too tired to regularly walk and ends up wheeling around in her chair. She is happy and conscious, so all things considered it could be worse for her. I hope to see her again tonight to follow up with the nursing team and to see for myself how her “recovery” from the couple of terrible days is continuing.
The memory unit endured the tornado outbreak we had yesterday fine. I worry about their planning in their facility since some can be more better than others.
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