The weather is pleasant at midday on Feb. 29 in Jefferson City. I’m looking above my computer monitor out my office window. The sun is shining and the temperatures have crept up past 60 degrees. But I can hear the wind whipping past our building and I can see limbs on a young tree swaying in the stiff breeze.
I’ve been checking news sites today and reading about devastating tornado touchdowns last night in the Ozark entertainment mecca of Branson, the little town of Buffalo, Lebanon and Cape Girardeau in our state, not to mention the tiny town of Harvey, Kan.; Elizabethtown, Ky.; Newburgh, Ind.; and the southern Illinois community of Harrisburg, where at least six have been confirmed dead with the possibility of even more fatalities.
Other communities have been hit as well. And residents in cities and towns in eastern Kentucky, Tennessee and the Southeast are bracing for similar tornado attacks in their own backyards later today and this evening.
In a state in which a monster tornado pounded Joplin and killed 161 people back on May 22, this seemed like déjà vu all over again.
While the damage and cost in human lives was not nearly as devastating as in Joplin or as in Alabama weeks before that, these multiple leap-year-day hits were a reminder that the tornado season has officially begun and that these manifestations of nature must be taken seriously.
Judging from the photographs on news websites, what happened in Joplin likely helped keep the loss of lives and the number of injuries this time around lower than they might have been otherwise. Fatalities so far today have been calculated at about a dozen or so in five states.
Most of us in the Midwest may not have taken weather sirens as seriously before Joplin was attacked by killer winds. We’re smarter now.
Churches already are making their facilities available to people left homeless. And disaster relief operations by Baptists and others are being mobilized to prepare meals, remove downed trees, help with cleanup and provide counseling services to grieving and hurting people.
In that sense, this will be déjà vu all over again, too. When people are hurting, people of faith show their concern with timely and tender action. When we are at our best, this is who we are and what we do.