OT?: Mormon Preparedness Helped City Respond Quickly To Rare Twister

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Preparedness lessons... to learn... when you... expect the unexpected.


Mormon preparedness helped city respond quickly to rare twister
HANNAH WOLFSON, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, August 12, 1999


[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

(08-12) 15:05 PDT SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Thirty minutes after a rare tornado rampaged through downtown without warning, volunteers were directing traffic and striding through neighborhoods, equipped with chain saws and hard hats.

The next morning, most streets were free of debris, and officials attributed the remarkable response to the culture of preparedness that is central to Mormonism.

One person was killed and dozens were injured in Wednesday's twister. Fifteen people remained hospitalized Thursday, two in critical condition and four in serious condition.

Officials were still assessing the destruction, but at least 121 homes were damaged, with 34 left uninhabitable. The mayor's office estimated that the tornado destroyed about $150 million in property, excluding damage to the Outdoor Retailers Market, a trade show held twice annually in Salt Lake City. Gov. Mike Leavitt declared the city a disaster area and requested federal assistance.

The weather service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning, but forecasters said they couldn't tell a tornado had formed until it was too late. The tornado gouged holes in historic homes, pulled up trees 100 feet tall and blew out car windows.

Despite the lack of warning, Mormon church members quickly hit the streets armed with a 50-page disaster booklet and a military-style plan for handling emergencies.

For decades, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have urged members -- who make up about 70 percent of Utah's population -- to stockpile a year's supply of food as a hedge against the unexpected.

Before survivalism was popular, Utah companies sold food in 40-pound bags, 100-hour candles and water storage barrels. And the church has a silo filled with 19 million pounds of wheat just in case normal distribution systems break down.

Those policies -- which date to the state's pioneer history and gave Mormons a head start on preparing for the Y2K bug -- help when Utah is hit by natural disasters.

``We had dozens of people turn out just to help clean up,'' said Ronald Coleman, bishop of the First Capitol Hill Ward, the first residential area hit by the storm after it skipped through downtown.

Coleman said each Mormon man in the ward is assigned four or five families to call or visit after a disaster. The plan then calls for them to check on other neighbors and report back to the bishop.

``They all did their checking and before everyone went to bed last night, the windows were covered and everybody was trying to help their neighbors,'' Coleman said.

Some members handed out tarps and fresh water; others formed roving crews to clear streets with chainsaws; still others stood by at an apartment complex where the elevator was broken to help if an ill resident needed to be carried down the stairs.

Hours after the storm, city officials asked the church for tarps, ropes and tents. The church took the gear from a massive central warehouse it maintains for disasters.

The Red Cross asked for help from LDS Family Services, the church's counseling program, to help work with residents.

``There's no question that the church is known for helping out in emergency situations,'' said Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini, who is not Mormon.

As the city shook off the twister's effects, the National Weather Service began examining its performance just before the tornado tore through downtown.

The weather service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning as the storm approached, expecting the marble-sized hail that pelted the city. Tornadoes are rare near Salt Lake City -- only about two a year occur statewide -- and forecasters don't have a lot of experience spotting twisters.

Forecasters normally rely on computers to interpret radar images and give an early indication that a tornado is likely. But in this case, said forecaster Mike Conger, the system didn't pick up the telltale signature of a twister until it was too late.

``There wasn't a lot of hard evidence prior to its development that would have given us a reason to go with a tornado warning,'' he said.

City and state officials said there was no indication the weather service had made mistakes.

``None of us ever dreamed there would be a tornado in Salt Lake City,'' Corradini said. ``We have major thunderstorms here, and I think that's what we thought it was.''

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), August 13, 1999


That is NOT anywhere close to OT. Thanks.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), August 13, 1999.

See also...

OT Sudden tornado hits Salt Lake City

http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id= 001Dyr

Or... for a different appraoch...

Senator Bennett is a hypocrite

http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id= 001EWp

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), August 13, 1999.

Great article; thanks for posting it, Diane!

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), August 13, 1999.

TO: TB2000 forum FROM: eyes_open

Contents: "I told you so", standard issue, one.

A prepared community is a resiliant community. Everyone planning to be self sufficient for some period of time makes for an excellent civil defense program.

But on this forum, I'm preaching to the choir.

Keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.net), August 13, 1999.

As many of us have posted and keep posting (but apparently in invisible type), it is prudent to be prepared in case of ANY disaster or disruption, not just Y2K. This article says precisely that--thanks Diane.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), August 13, 1999.

Oh, those wacko survivalist Mormons! :-)

-- A (A@AisA.com), August 13, 1999.

Although I don't agree with some Mormon theology, I do appreciate that their true believers are prudent, evinced by their common sense in helping those most in need.

Common sense is Y2K compliant.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), August 14, 1999.

"Common sense is Y2K compliant."

Good one Randolph!


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), August 16, 1999.

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