Our View: The Tornado Was Bad, But It Was Not The Big One

Hurricane Bob in 1991.  FILE PHOTO

Last week’s tornado was violent, frightening and destructive, and now that most of the trees are cleared away and the power’s been restored, a proper damage assessment is taking place. The cost to municipalities, businesses and private homeowners will almost certainly be in the millions of dollars.

But make no mistake: when it comes to disasters, this wasn’t the big one.

The tornado that crossed Harwich had winds that are the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane, with a key difference. The most severe winds were in an area about 250 yards wide and lasted only a few minutes at any given location. It was bad, costly and messy, but it was also localized. With peak hurricane season just around the corner, that’s worth pondering for a minute.

We heard stories about people sniping at Eversource workers because their power was still out after 48 hours. After Hurricane Bob, some places on the Cape didn’t get their power back for 10 days or longer. That’s a lot of cold showers.

After the storm, cell phone service was weak and spotty, but for the most part, mobile phones worked. The tornado came with very little warning, leaving lots of people separated from their loved ones and wondering about their well-being. If the network had gone down entirely for an extended period of time, that anxiety would’ve been that much worse.

If you weren’t directly affected by the tornado, try this exercise. Driving from your home to the grocery store, the post office or your place of business, count the number of overhead wires and branches above the road. In a hurricane, many of them will come down and travel simply won’t happen. That means we’ll all need to be self-sufficient (you can also count the number of stumps left along the roadway as a further reminder).

Help came quickly after the tornado, but mostly because the disaster was localized. If all of Southeastern Massachusetts had suffered the kind of damage seen in Harwich, there simply wouldn’t have been enough utility workers, public works teams and tree crews to go around.

Let the Tornado of 2019 be a reminder of our need for disaster planning. If you don’t yet have a family disaster plan, visit www.RedCross.org to find out how to make one. Assemble a good disaster supplies kit with nonperishable foods, lots of drinking water, flashlights and cell phone chargers. Keep a supply of prescription medicines on hand, and have a plan if you rely on electrically operated medical devices. Draft up a communication plan so that if you suddenly become isolated from your family, you can get word to them that you’re alright. Go to www.SafeAndWell.org to learn more.