Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Renewed Perspective

Since I moved back to Little Rock nearly 11 years ago, most of my time in tornado situations have been spent in downtown at the TV station.  It's difficult to hear Mother Nature's fury working inside those thick concrete walls of the historic KATV building.  Once a storm does get into downtown, the muted sounds of thunder can be heard throughout the building with the occasional flickering of computer monitors due to close lightning strikes.  When storms are in other portions of the state, we stare at a radar screen with shades of green, yellow, and red presenting hook echoes.  In cases like the April 27th, 2014 Mayflower/Vilonia tornado, we have to remind ourselves sometimes it's a living hell for those affected while we sit in a quiet studio.

On Monday, May 9th, we had the risk for a couple tornadoes and Barry and Ned were on duty at the station.  If the situation started to get cranked up, I would hurry into the station and help out.  That's usually the case when multiple warnings are issued.  Otherwise, I was going to stay home since it's my "off day" and be on stand-by.  As many of you know, I enjoy communicating on social media so I contributed to the coverage in that way.

By 10:30, my kids were in bed and I was still staring at two computer screens tracking the storms and sending out the occasional Tweet.  I saw a little rotation in central Saline county on my radar display.  I perked up in my chair and logged into the National Weather Service chat room.  It's a tool the media uses to keep in touch with meteorologists at the office who issue the warnings.  They were watching that area of rotation too and ready to issue a tornado warning if it became stronger.  

As we all know, it did.  Within 1 minute of the warning coming out, the sirens sounded in west Little Rock and my wife asked if we needed to wake up the kids and get to a safe place.  I told her to wait a second and let me determine the exact track.  It didn't matter, the blare of the sirens woke them up.  (BTW, never rely on sirens for your warnings).  I quickly noticed that if the rotation did hold together, it would track very close to my neighborhood.  By this time, all I heard were sirens and 2 little boys crying at the top of their lungs with terror.  I acted calmly and told her to get the boys in the hallway and play it safe.

Fortunately, the tornado warning was cancelled early and I was able to tell the kids all was ok and the tornado danger had passed.  My 6 year old walked up to me and was still shaking like I had never seen before.  I tried to tell him it was all ok and that we were safe.

Those 10-15 minutes of terror I saw on my kids faces was a needed reminder of what many of you must deal with.  Kids are terrified, and even as adults, we get worried too.  Sometimes we need reminding when sitting in a calm TV studio tracking a tornado several counties away of what you are facing.  I won't forget.

Thanks for reading.

6 comments:

David McCollum said...

That brought tears to eyes. Even as adults we get nervous and worry when severe weather strikes. I was known back then, as it was referred to, a "Weather Watcher" back in 1979 - 1983 around Stuttgart. There was nothing that could excite me more than a severe weather outbreak with possible tornadoes. But you do tend to get caught up in the excitement and forget the personal angle. I guess now being older and living through the May 10, 2008 EF3 tornado that hit Stuttgart, it really changed me. Instead of excitement I get nervous, but that's good, it keeps you in focus of what plans are needed. Long before the storms came into Arkansas May 09, I kept the radar up on my laptop and was watching the storms in Oklahoma. I had already then started charging batteries, pulling out the police scanner. By 10pm my attention was on Little Rock and anticipating the track of the storms. The information that we have today and the tools used to get this information is awesome, but the experience and dedication of our meteorologist is awesome in it's self. Me personally, a great dedicated meteorologist like Todd Yakoubian, who gives his personal time to keep the public up to date on a severe weather outbreak is awesome and caring for the public in itself. If not to feel safer as if he I in our own homes with us....David McCollum

Ali Suitor said...

It is a sad and helpless feeling when your kids are upset about the weather. I ALWAYS stay on top of the weather, but I was so tired last night and fell asleep at 9:30. I learned a very good lesson last night!! I learned you HAVE TO sleep with your phone on and turned up! Not on silent! By the time our neighbors came over and were beating on the door for us to wake up, it was almost too late to take cover. We live in the Avilla area. Too close!

Anonymous said...

I was terrified of tornadoes as child growing up in Lonoke County. I am terrified as an adult. The only thing that helps the anxiety is having a storm shelter or basement. Even having a safe place to go doesn't completely alleviate the anxiety.

Angela said...

Just read this and wanted to say thanks for all u do. I am glad u and ur family was safe. Prayers for those impacted by the storms last night.

Debbie Johnson said...

Very well said Todd. Defiantly opens your eyes to witness a child's real terror during a situation like that. Too close for comfort, I might add. Appreciate your dedication to keeping your viewers aware of severe weather.

Andy Counts said...

Todd,
Thanks for sharing that very personal story. Glad you and your family are ok. I like yourself will stay up all night long dillegently monitoring minute by minute as severe weather moves through in order to keep my family safe.

What makes your story so moving to me is that you do the same but for all Arkansans throughout the state. Often times you're in the studio away from those you love the most.

Andy C