Our Opinion: Respect and prepare for natural phenomena

Missouri’s celebration of Earth Day today offers an ideal opportunity to emphasize respect for natural phenomena.

Natural disasters have stormed to the top of news accounts this spring.

A major earthquake, which triggered a tsunami, killed nearly 26,000 people and caused massive damage, including the release of radiation from a crippled nuclear plant.

Flooding imperils many towns in Missouri, including Poplar Bluff. Thus far, flood waters have displaced upwards of 1,000 residents and generated 120 water rescues. And the threat remains.

On Wednesday, a swath of deadly tornadoes swept across the South, leveling cities and killing hundreds in what is considered the most destructive tornado outbreak since 1974.

Add to the unease the calculation that most tornadoes occur not in April, but in May, which begins Sunday.

Earth Day — which Missouri celebrates a week later than the national observance — traditionally emphasizes environmental education, awareness and stewardship.

That emphasis is important, but so is robust respect for the power of nature.

Ask yourself:

• Do you and your family have a plan for where to seek shelter when storm sirens sound? If separated when a storm arrives, do you also have a communications plan and a designated place to gather afterward?

• Do you have an emergency kit, with first-aid supplies, basic necessities, flashlight and battery-powered radio so you can remain informed?

• Do you seek shelter when sirens sound or are you among the people who wait to see if severe weather misses you?

Modern weather forecasting continues to make great strides in identifying and warning of severe storms and tornadoes.

But warnings won’t help people who aren’t prepared or choose to ignore them.

As part of today’s Earth Day celebration of nature and the environment, prepare for emergencies in addition to practicing stewardship.

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