Five at 8 – 8/20/09: How to clean up after a tornado


1) Storm thoughts: Yesterday’s storms may be the most photographed storms in the history of Minnesota. Jeff Blanch of Minneapolis sent this picture from 38th St. and 4th Ave last evening. No doubt by now you’ve seen hundreds of these on this Web site and just about every other one.

So where do you start when you clean up a mess like this? I took some prunings over to my city’s compost dump last weekend, jamming them into my wife’s Subaru, and I noticed something at the compost site. Nobody was bringing their debris in Subarus or any other car for that matter. Pick-ups and SUVs. When Cash for Clunkers and high gas prices have ridded the driveways of these vehicles, how do we clean up from storms like this?

In any event, here are a few tips for cleaning up. Purdue University has a page of resources, including this Word document on how to check for damage. In many cases, ignore Indiana, substitute Minnesota. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has frequently asked questions about tornado recovery.

Each of the communities affected in yesterday’s storms has different policies on what to do with the debris. In Cottage Grove, from what I understand, you haul it to the curb and the city will pick it up. North Branch is requiring residents to bring it to the city compost area on Ash St. I’ve not yet been able to find information for Minneapolis residents.

Meanwhile, the weather people will be out assessing the damage from the storm and determining (a) whether it was a tornado and if so (b) how big it was. Here’s the Fujita scale by which it will be measured.

A great Good Question from Jason Derusha last night on WCCO: How often do tornadoes hit cities? Scientific American looked at the question last year. Why don’t tornadoes hit cities more often? They’re small.

2) Newsweek looks at the attacks on the Obama health care proposal and analyzes why it was so successful. Hint: It has to do with fear of dying:

The power of “death panels” as a phrase and a scare tactic also works because Americans are deeply uncomfortable with death. We don’t like to think about it or talk about it, says bioethicist Tom Murray, president of the Hastings Center. Only 29 percent of us have a living will. As a result of that discomfort, reminding people of death sends them off the deep end, into the part of the neuronal pool where reason cowers behind existential terror. And we’re particularly vulnerable to scaremongering in the atmosphere of dread created by the economic meltdown. When people are already scared about losing their jobs and their homes and paying for health care, it doesn’t take a lot to make them afraid of one more thing. We’re living with “free-floating anxiety” every day, says psychiatrist Louann Brizendine of the University of California, San Francisco. “The brain is signaling ‘danger’ right now. Whenever that happens, the brain typically loses its logical reasoning power.” Fear is also the most contagious emotion. If Chuck Grassley is worried about death panels, millions of people reason (check that: feel), how can I be sure they’re a myth?

From Slate: Many of the pundits attacking government health care have government health care.

3) The New York Times has its third installment in its excellent series on end-of-life care, Months to Live. It’s on the art of delivering bad news:

Most doctors do not excel at delivering bad news, decades of studies show, if only because it goes against their training to save lives, not end them. But Dr. O’Mahony, who works at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, belongs to a class of doctors, known as palliative care specialists, who have made death their life’s work. They study how to deliver bad news, and they do it again and again. They know secrets like who, as a rule, takes it better. They know who is more likely to suffer silently, and when is the best time to suggest a do-not-resuscitate order.

4) What if we lost the ability to know what a kilogram weighs? There’s an official kilogram and it’s well protected.

5) Eric Ostermeier at the Smart Politics blog calculates the f-stop for Rep. Michele Bachmann. She’s on TV every 9 days, he says. Factoid: Despite her attempt for a national following, most of the money she raised in the last quarter came from within Minnesota, Ostermeier reports.

Bonus: Kindle vs. the book:


Recent polling finds U.S. public support for the war in Afghanistan at a historic low. And as Afghans prepared to vote in today’s presidential election, U.S. casualties were mounting at a record rate. After nearly eight years of war, what would success in Afghanistan look like?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai leads in the public opinion polls, despite some dissatisfaction with the way he has governed the country. And more U.S. troops were killed this week, putting August on a pace to match July, the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Second hour: Writer Mike Steinberger didn’t believe the talk of a decline in French cuisine, but then he went to France and discovered it was worse than he imagined. In his new book, he chronicles what’s gone wrong with the French food industry.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Former Sen. David Durenberger will be in the studio to discuss health care reform

Second hour: Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, “Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Afghans talk about Afghanistan.

Second hour: Restaurant critic Frank Bruni discusses his memoir is called, “Born Round.”

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – We’ll have day two of the tornado story, obviously. NPR will look at the new credit card law that takes effect today. Financial institutions have to give you a 45-day notice of an increase in rates, but credit card companies figured out how to get around the law. They’ve already raises your rates.

  • Ernestine

    Great story!! Good tips for individuals who really don’t know where to go sometimes after a traumatic weather event.

  • Kim V

    On the tornado (?): considering the areas it was seen, thank goodness no one was hurt!

    On the kg: I remember watching a video in science class years ago showing the actual kg in the climate-controlled case in Europe, and I thought it was so interesting that a person can just decide how much the kg is and create a standard by which to measure other kg’s.

  • tiredboomer

    Every time I hear the phrase “death panels” it reprises in my mind the success Republicans had discrediting estate taxes with the phrase “death tax”. In two little words estate taxes were no longer a tax on mega-wealthy families.

    Republicans – the party of death anxiety.

    So, why don’t the Democrats use the language the same as Republicans? Our current health insurance system could be called “corporate health care” or “profit driven medicine” (or “the profit driven medicine of corporate health care”). Conservative talk show hosts could be referred to as “those talk show entertainers” and FOX news would become “the political entertainment on FOX”.

  • bsimon

    tiredboomer, you’re on the right track, but not quite there yet. I think something like death-for-profit would be a good buzzword for for-profit ‘health’ care.