Friday, April 29, 2011


"It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life." (Jean-Luc Picard*)
All day Wednesday, meteorologists were predicting an outbreak of severe weather in the deep South, expected to arrive that night. As I listened to them issue their dire warnings, one word stood out to me.

The word: unsurvivable. That is, a person in the storm's path could take all customary precautions (short of evacuating the area) and still it might not be enough to save their life.

Yesterday we learned that wasn't hyperbole -- 329 deaths (confirmed so far) in seven states, resulting from 174 tornadoes (sighted), some projected to be rated EF4 or EF5. An aerial survey conducted by the National Weather Service revealed an uninterrupted path of destruction stretching over 200 miles.

It's been a stormy spring in the Southeast, so we can speculate that some of the dead might've been victims of self-inflicted complacency or "alert fatigue." But even people who heeded the warnings and prudently sheltered in the center of their basement-less houses, away from windows and outside walls, had no shot against 200mph winds that scraped entire neighborhoods off their slabs.

What happened Wednesday night isn't cause for fatalism any more than it's reason to be complacent. We should continue to catalogue threats, develop a preparedness mindset, plan and practice, and then take action when the time comes.

In the end, we may fail. Still, we prepare not because our survival is guaranteed, but because being ready gives us a fighting chance.

*Captain Picard was consoling Lieutenant Commander Data after the latter lost at Strategema to Zakdornian master Sirma Kolrami; from the episode "Peak Performance," Star Trek: The Next Generation.