It's never easy when we start to analyze the pain, suffering and destruction when nature explodes like it did on February 5, 2008. Yes, it's a day many of us will remember. Here are some thoughts I have from the perspective of a television meteorologist trying to get the warnings out and save lives.
I had the feeling the day before that the day would either be very quiet or very active. Sometimes the ingredients just don't come together. I don't know why, but I never like to say what my "gut" is feeling, but when pressed that day, I said it would be a rather significant and active weather day for our state.
Every meteorologist feels a responsibility to their viewers. They depend on us. They expect us to keep them informed especially when the weather turns dangerous. It only took one scan of the radar around 4:45pm that day for me to realize this afternoon would be significant. It was my hope that no one would die and the warnings would be heard. I had seen radar signatures like this before. I could even see the inside of the tornado forming just to the south of Atkins. I made the decision then to stay on the air for the people of that community. I had no idea this tornado would be on the ground for 2-3 more hours ravaging the Ozarks. As the tornado approached town after town, I'd tell those citizens to take cover. I told them where to go to be safe. I told them I would let them know when the threat would pass. When I heard Dawn and Liz inform our state that 3 people had died near Atkins my heart sunk. I didn't have time to let that sink in because I knew others could be affected very soon by the deadly tornado.
I continued tracking the storm, but I was having a hard time believing this twister was not weakening but strengthening as it tore through community after community. As the damage and fatality reports continued to rise, I just dug in deeper and did the only thing I know to do. I tried to stay calm even though I was realized this was becoming an historical event.
The next morning when I heard the death toll, I cried. I felt like I didn't do my job. I wanted everyone to be safe. I realize now I have no say in the matter.
I toured the damage and witnessed the communities coming together to help others. It wasn't until I talked to a family who lost everything, including one of their own, that I felt a little peace. They gave all credit to God's grace for what they experienced and how he helped them through this time. It was through their strength and faith that I realized none of us have any say during events like this.
There will be other devastating storms that affect us. I hope to be watching the radar for each and every one of them while I'm here at Ch. 11. I promise to always do all I can to inform our viewers, but in the end, I realize it's beyond any single one of us. I will always remember this day in our state's history, just as I will always remember the grace and faith of those families I met who lost everything.