Saturday, March 05, 2005

Tornado season is coming

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

Eliza Cook looks through her home at 6159 Ramey Ave. in East Fort Worth where a tornado tore through her neighborhood on Tuesday, April 16, 2002. She said she was praying on the bed when the tornado touched down across the street and destroyed the neighbors home (seen through the window). The tornado shattered every window in Cook's home as well as pulling off much of her roof. Cook has lived in the home since 1957. Her family said she had no insurance to cover the damage.

The flowers are blooming, fresh leaves are budding after a long winter nap, ladybugs have returned to brighten our day. In most of the country, this is called spring. In Texas and the Midwest, it's called tornado season.

As I've said before, tornados are challenging. Typically, PJs are the first responders (because we were sent into the tornado itself). As a result, we must have some answers and offer help to the traumatized.

Although it's important to get the shots and make deadline, please ask people if they have insurance to cover the damage. If they don't, they need help from your readers. Newspaper readers have big hearts and will help their neighbors. Tell them how to help and they will.

After big natural disasters, large organizations call for donations and handle distribution. After smaller disasters, it's up to the community to establish bank account for donations for the affected. Let the neighborhood know they need to create such an account and give them the telephone number to the newsroom to get the information published.

Carry plenty of Federal Disaster Relief forms (PDF file) for anyone who looks lost. It's not much, but it gives them some hope in the face of instantaneous, overwhelming tragedy. Although some journalists might object to my sense of mission, PJs are at the scene to show what happened and to mobilize the readers into action. PJs are there to visually document the situation, then our readers understand the need for their help.

I'll add one shooting tip though. Find the highest bridge or other overlook of the scene. The natural tendency is to go into the middle of the situation. Tornadoes flatten everything. There's not much to shoot on the trail of a tornado because everything is gone. By shooting from a nearby bridge or other high position (helicopters are best), viewers can comprehend the path and damage of the tornado better from the unaffected homes nearby. The overall image normally runs 1A while images such as above run secondary.

Enough for now,


Erin said...

Cool picture. Like the contrast of her and the chaos outside.

Jimmy Jin said...

Wow, a post at 1:00am. Dedicated!

Ms. Cook's posture in this photo--with her head drooping--gave me some bad deja vu of my own grandmother (in China) after some bad news there. If I wasn't a high school student living with my parents, I would've sent a donation after seeing this run in the paper.

Mark M. Hancock said...

I do most of my blog work after midnight because it's quieter. :-)

They really needed help on this block. Nothing is as bad as Oklahoma City a few years ago (F6), but it was not a good day for these folks.