Posted by: Green Knight | April 23, 2011

Howling and Yowling

You may have heard that the airport here in St. Louis got wrecked in our Earth Day tornado last night.  A couple of diesel trucks got sucked up into the funnel, along with some trees, and slammed back down.  Two tractor-trailers got blown up ON END.  Most of the giant windows and part of the airport roof are no more.  Many houses were severely damaged, some even flattened.  Flagpoles bent sideways.  A big metal highway-exit sign blew about 100 yards into a parking garage.  A jumbo jet parked at a loading gate got picked up and blown sideways about 200 yards.  45,000 people lost power.  I live several miles south of there now, and only got some hail.

To their credit, city and county government agencies responded quickly and worked with the airport authority to set up a triage station, clear debris, get people off planes, and help the injured.  Five people were hospitalized, but there were no serious injuries and remarkably no fatalities.  A mall and a grocery store in the area managed to get all the shoppers to the safest parts of their facilities.  This is why having an emergency response plan, and training and drilling people in it, is so crucial.  The new airport administration has obviously made some changes; when I worked there 8 years ago and got bloodied and bruised tripping over a piece of decaying infrastructure in their dimly-lit parking garage, I wasn’t even able to get First Aid.

A good video of the destruction is available here: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2011/04/22/vonats.tornado.st.louis.airport.KPLR.html

As I said in my recent web radio interview, many places I used to inspect didn’t have an emergency plan, and of those that did, in many cases it took them a half-hour to FIND the blasted thing.  Not much use in a real emergency; why have one at all?  And don’t forget to keep that First Aid/CPR/AED up to date, and inspect and maintain your fire extinguishers.

It’s also a good idea to have emergency drills at home once in a while.  One reason EPA calls their hazardous waste response document  a “contingency plan” is that you’ll be taking different actions depending on whether it’s a fire, flood, tornado, or earthquake.  And don’t forget the pets!  Have enough pet carriers for all of them, and spare food and water for them as well as the family, plus a few extra blankets.  First aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors/alarms should be working and have new batteries twice a year.

Speaking of pets, I took FEMA’s “Animals in Disasters” online courses a few years ago, and would really like to take the Red Cross courses in animal first aid/CPR.  I may have mentioned before that I’m taking care of two feral cat colonies near me, and am hoping to set up TNR events for both.  That’s where they’re trapped, neutered, and returned.  Ferals can have pretty decent lives if they’re fixed to keep the population down, and get their rabies shots…a bargain at $25 per cat, and they also clip one ear so future concerned cat rescuers will know they’ve already been through the program.  Fundraising isn’t one of my exemplary skills, but I just set up a ChipIn page to try to get donations, since I must have the vet fees in hand before the local TNR group will set up and work with me on the rescues.  You can find it at http://southcityferals.chipin.com/feral-cat-tnrs.  Any help would be greatly appreciated, and get you a friendly “meow” from the kitty tribes.

We will be having more rain and storms for the next several days, so even if we don’t get any more twisters, there’s already been some flash flooding, and that possibility will only increase due to the saturated ground.  “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”

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