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Tornado brings communities together

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On Monday, I had to take my own advice, grab my cat, and go sit in the hallway of my little home in Wendell as a tornado passed within 3 miles of my neighborhood. For me, the event offered a little excitement on what would have been a slow-motion, illness recovery day. For people not far from me, it was a jarring, frightening experience that required a great deal of cleanup. Thankfully, no injuries were reported despite some heavy damage to homes and farms.

Since then, the National Weather Service issued preliminary damage survey results from that storm. They rated it an EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale with estimated peak winds of 115 mph, a path length of 17.40 miles, and a maximum width of 385 yards. It was a relatively long-track tornado that traveled from Knightdale in eastern Wake County through Wendell and Zebulon and ended near Bailey in Nash County. During its lifetime, it crossed a major highway, destroyed metal farm buildings, did serious damage to homes, and downed countless trees.

In the moments and days after a natural disaster happens, there are reminders everywhere that people are generally good, kind, and helpful. Neighbors check on neighbors. People with time, skills, and power tools show up to help clean up storm debris and help rebuild. First responders help the injured, cordon off unsafe areas, and clear roadways. Everyone who is able pitches in. It’s a beautiful thing!

Throughout the week, I’ve seen Facebook posts from the towns of Wendell and Zebulon, Wendell Fire Department, and residents on those towns’ community information pages thanking individuals and organizations for their assistance after the storm. I even saw one post thanking the Chick-N-Que food truck for coming into a storm-damaged neighborhood on Monday and feeding the people there for free. It was a moment for the neighbors to take a break and share a smile after an emotional ride.

I’ve written before about the importance of being prepared for emergencies – not just having a plan but knowing what to do in the moments and days afterward. Each of us has some talent, skill, or strength that can be utilized to aid in mitigation and recovery on some scale, whether it be in our own homes and neighborhoods, across town or across the state.

Here are some examples:

  • Know basic first aid including CPR. There’s a new phone app that will be available in Wake County soon called Pulsepoint. You can download it for free now, and when it goes live, you’ll get a notification if someone nearby is in cardiac arrest and needs assistance. It even has instructions for how to perform basic CPR and use an AED if necessary. It will allow users to offer assistance until the ambulance arrives. You could help save a life!
  • Offer to use the tools in your shed or garage to help breakdown and remove debris. How many times do we see neighbors clearing roads before the utility workers and first responders can get to a scene. Just steer clear of powerlines!
  • Learn to use short-wave radio or know who among your friends and family can. I bet if you asked around, you’d find that you already know at least one person with that hobby.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have weathered the storm without damage or power failure, offer to use your electricity to cook for those who didn’t.

If you’d like to help, but you don’t know where to start, contact your town, local churches, the Red Cross, and/or your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). When a natural disaster happens, we can all be first responders in some form or fashion. When the time arrives, what will you do?

This map, courtesy of the National Weather Service Raleigh Office, shows the preliminary storm damage survey results of the tornado that tore through eastern Wake and southern Nash counties on Monday, May 13, 2019.