Scouting Tornado Disaster
I am saddened by the report of the killer tornado that moved thru the Boy Scouts encampment in Western Iowa. The heroism displayed by the scouts aside, this is a case of either poor planning by the scout masters or an inability to decipher severe weather conditions.
At 2:55 CDT, a Tornado Watch was issued for Western Iowa including the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Harrison County Iowa. The twister struck at 6:30 local time, roughly 4 hours after the watch had been issued.
Now I have been to these camps to talk to scouts and 4 H clubs on severe weather. The camp at the Kanawha State Forest south of Charleston and the one off 4-H camp road in Barboursville come to mind. These shelters are designed to keep the scouts dry. They are safe in almost all conventional weather situations. But a tornado watch is not a conventional weather event.
I am the first to admit that it was a random freak of nature that the tornado hit the camp, a true fluke. The chance of that spot being hit by a twister were astronomically small and infinitely smaller that camp would be hit by a strong tornado. But please, scout masters understand this; namely, areas like mobile home parks and camp shelters are NO PLACE TO BE CAUGHT WHEN A TORNADO STRIKES.
It is for this reason that I recommend anyone and everyone who lives in a mobile home should leave when a tornado watch is issued. INCONVENIENT, ABSOLUTELY. OFTEN TIMES, UNNECESSARY, YOU BETCHA. But when a tornado hits, you are much more likely to have your life threatened in a mobile home or camp shelter than in a sturdy home with a secured foundation.
It may have been hard for the scout masters to send the kids home after weeks of planning. I hear where a tornado drill had been run the day before. Good practice, but why plan these events in the heart of the tornado season? Why tempt nature?
It is for this reason that I urge scout masters to plan their maneuvers for the safer time of the season in the fall. September and October are much less likely to have severe weather when compared to June and July.
We saw a scout get killed by lightning just a few summers ago in suburban DC during a July or August storm at the annual Scout Jamboree. That is of course the prime time of year for thunderstorms in DC.
Now in the heart of Tornado Alley, we lose 4 scouts in a true act of God. It is high time we teach the scouts to plan their outdoor events when severe weather is least likely. While there are no guarantees about fall weather, I can state categorically that fall is the dry season in America and much more conducive to safe maneuvers.
By the way, this Thursday afternoon, our local radar is cooking with several thunderstorms around. No twisters are expected, but kids at camp should respect all storms from the first flicker of lightning to the last rumble of rolling thunder.