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Bracing for 2012 tornado season

When attending a university sitting just outside of “Tornado Alley,” it is important to know the significance of incliment weather when it forms.

Drive three hours in one direction, and you land in Oklahoma City, which according to NOAA.gov, has had the most recorded tornadoes for a single city in the United States. Drive three hours in the other direction, and you land in Reeds Spring, Mo., the site of a recent tornado outbreak and home town to freshman Liz Coleman.

After hearing about the devastation that took place Feb. 29, 2012, a group of six JBU students, including Colman, went to help with relief efforts taking place in Reeds Springs, Kimberling City and Branson, Mo.

“When we drove up, the damage was unbelievable,” Coleman said. “You always think that it will never happen to you or people that you love, but seeing that it had, left me speechless.”

Coleman has lived her whole life in Reeds Springs, and knows many of the people and places personally affected by the recent tornados including her church family, best friends’ homes, and places that she grew up going to.

Senior Kaleb Bledsoe also helped out with the tornado relief, and noted that the group helped clean up the property of a farmer from Coleman’s church—Dale.

“We spent most of the day cutting trees, picking up debris and a lot of sheet metal from a damaged barn,” Bledsoe said. “Mr. Dale seemed to almost tear up at the end of the day and he told me and some of the other guys multiple times that he really appreciated us come out and helping.”

Each of the people that the students came across were “very open. Everyone was thankful to have someone to cling to,” Coleman said. “Everyone likes to cling to possessions, but once those are gone, they rely on clinging to someone.”

Though it is impossible to predict when or where tornadoes will occur, the chance of a tornado hitting the JBU campus is slim.

It is important to know what to do when conditions are favorable for the storm. Two important things to note are the differences between a tornado “watch” and a tornado “warning.”

According to NOAA.gov, a tornado watch will be issued when “tornadoes and other kinds of severe weather are possible in the next several hours.” A tornado warning will be issued when “a tornado has been spotted, or that indicates a thunderstorm circulation which can spawn a tornado.”

So what should you do when a tornado warning is issued?

Go to a sturdy building, to the lowest level and in an inner room or hallway away from windows. Stay alert and listen for instructions on what to do.

NOAA.gov says that after a tornado you should stay with someone else, use caution when dealing with injured, don’t enter damaged buildings, and remain calm and alert.

As for the damage that has taken place in southern Missouri already this year, there is still a great need both physically and emotionally.

“We worked hard, but had a great time working together and by God’s grace being the body of Christ,” Bledsoe said. “It was a great feeling knowing God used you to encourage this man in such a hard time.”

As for going back to help with the physical damage, Coleman stated that she “just can’t stay away.”

After any type of disaster, people want to just sit and talk. They need someone to be there to care,” Coleman said. “It takes time to rebuild things like homes and businesses, but also a long time to rebuild emotional loss.”