"We have a tornado on the ground in town! Tornado on the ground!"
June 13, 2015 10:05 AM   Subscribe

One year later, Wessington Springs High School senior Owen Witte chronicles the story of the tornadoes that descended on his home town and destroyed more than 50 homes and left 77 people homeless. Witte's story artfully conveys the heroism and resilience of his 950-person community.
posted by MrJM (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
destroyed more than 50 homes and left 77 people homeless

When I was a kid, a tornado touched down in my medium-sized town, and the damage was similar. Yet it had very little effect on me. I hadn't thought about how much more life-changing these kinds of disasters must be for smaller communities with fewer resources and where you are more likely to know the people involved. Thanks for the link.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:16 PM on June 13, 2015

By definition, a tornado must be in contact with the ground. If it isn't, then it isn't a tornado - simply a funnel cloud.
posted by spock at 3:50 PM on June 14, 2015

Just once I'd love to hear someone say that their town just could not pull together. Everyone's town is close knit and strong I guess.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 10:02 AM on June 15, 2015

Just once I'd love to hear someone say that their town just could not pull together. Everyone's town is close knit and strong I guess.

Yeah, it's really bullshit that some towns actually have a sense of community. Why don't they just ignore every person they see except for those they must interact with. Such a backwards place.

Small towns are, in my experience (having lived in 2 and having literally every member of my family living in a town of at most 25,000, mostly >3,000, all of them but me in SD), universally tight-knit. That doesn't come from some mythical sense of "small town americana", it comes from the fact that if you live in a town that is so small, you do in fact know most everyone you see. It comes from the fact (in SD at least) that the weather could quite often literally kill you, that a single industry failure can effect every single person in that area deeply (a bad harvest means no one's getting paid all that well, or really at all.), that people from small towns are often related at some point back up the line, or work with or are friends with someone related to anyone they might know in town. Small towns are tight-knit because to exist they have to be. Weak communities with a lack of close ties in rural areas rife with poverty, lack of access to social services, tenuous economies and inclement weather simply do not survive. Small town life is hard, and when it gets harder people pull together because they have to if they still want to, you know, have a place to live.
posted by neonrev at 9:43 PM on June 16, 2015

Oh, also, the funnel cloud - tornado thing. My grandpa was a storm chaser and part of the storm reporting ham radio system (in Beadle County, very near Wessington.), and he always used tornado, even for systems that never touch down. It's more from focusing on the damage than the meteorological. Even in the air, a funnel cloud can cause a lot of damage on the ground just by sheer force of wind, and the weird updraft thing. A 'tornado touching down' more refers to the types of damage one can expect (funnel clouds won't pick up a car and toss it, for example.) than what the exact meteorological definition is. People don't respect the warning of funnel clouds sighted, they certainly do respect tornadoes, and in that situation you need people to listen. Tornado perks up the ears.
posted by neonrev at 9:56 PM on June 16, 2015

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