Tornado shows value of media’s weather obsession (5×8 – 5/21/13)


This is astounding time-lapse video of yesterday’s tornado near Oklahoma City.

Action News 5 – Memphis, Tennessee

What’s it like to be on the ground? This is from Newcastle, OK., just before it hit Moore.

What would your first reaction be when coming up out of the ground?

We love to make fun of TV meteorologists — did they really have to interrupt the Stanley Cup playoffs for a run-of-the mill thunderstorm here on Sunday? — but anyone watching the live stream of the local stations in Oklahoma no doubt understand the number of lives their coverage probably saved with the heads-up warning.

That’s based on science — the science of forecasting tornadoes. And they’ve gotten quite good at it.


It’ll be two years tomorrow since a tornado ripped Joplin apart, and one hit north Minneapolis. The reporters are gone and attention has moved on. Whatever happened in those communities?

“Blue tarps continue to dot the landscape, covering roofs that have gone unrepaired. Vacant homes with boarded-up doors and windows stand as testament that many displaced residents have yet to return,” Camden News says via Twin Cities Daily Planet. “And streets once shaded by a canopy of overhead leaves are now exposed to sunlight, their decades-old trees destroyed during the storm.”

Most people who wanted to stay have been connected with insurance and help. A liquor store is being rebuilt, about 150 new “green” homes are being constructed, and hundreds of trees have been planted in the area that was stripped bare.

In Joplin, USA Today reporters had a look yesterday:

Streets are clear. Debris is gone. Road signs ripped away by 200-plus-mph winds are back in place and motorists can find their way.

Block after block, new homes have risen, many on the bare foundations left behind after the May 22, 2011, storm. New roofs — not twisted debris — mark the path of the storm through the heart of the city. A recent tour of the tornado’s path revealed only a handful of structures with torn roofs or damaged walls.

Which is as astounding an image as the video above, because an understandable reaction when you see communities wiped out is, “why even bother? Where do you even begin?”

But people actually know the answer to that question.


DFL. Republican. It almost never matters, the Minnesota Legislature is going to wait until the last possible minute and then pass a lot of bills after the sun goes down.

It happened again this year, again a far cry from the usual first-day-of-session proclamations of good governing.

Over the next few days, Minnesota will process what’s been done.

In its editorial today, the Star Tribune gives the lawmakers mixed marks:

History did not repeat itself. The Legislature raised taxes rather than fundamentally reforming them. It failed to make the transportation investments that future prosperity requires. It could not muster enough bipartisan support to upgrade inadequate higher-ed facilities and infrastructure. It did nothing to control gun violence or crack down on school bullying.

But as this edition went to press, the basics were nearly done and given how often that could not have been said in the past decade, the Class of 2013 can take a modest bow. The new budget is forecast to stay in balance through mid-2016 without the deficit-perpetuating fiscal trickery often seen before.

If there’s a problem here, the Star Tribune suggested, it’s that the legislators are too much like the rest of us:

To the extent legislators stayed in their comfort zones, pandered to interest groups and failed to forge bipartisan alliances, they reflected a Minnesota electorate that’s more divided than it was a generation ago.


Moorhead homeowners may be on their own the next time the Red River floods. The Fargo Forum reports today the city is thinking of getting out of the sandbag business. The consideration comes after this year’s prediction of a record flood failed to come true.

“We didn’t have to make sandbags, and we didn’t have to buy sandbags, and it still cost us almost a half a million dollars,” Mayor Max Voxland said. “The 87 folks that are left along the river really are at a point where they have to pony up something and be responsible citizens themselves for having property along the river.”



Major League Baseball is going to outfit its players in camouflage-themed uniforms for Memorial Day. Paul Lukas at Uni Watch is not impressed with the militarization of sports:

It’s been said many times before, but it bears repeating: Memorial Day is not a day for celebrating the military. It’s a day for honoring the military dead. A more appropriate gesture would be an MLB-wide black armband. An even better gesture would be a pregame moment of silence, without anything on the uniform. But as is so often the case nowadays, merchandising and pandering trump common sense.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning — before I knew about the G.I. Joe jerseys — I received an email from a publicist, reminding me about the caps. I asked the publicist why the caps are called “Stars & Stripes” caps when they have neither stars nor stripes. His response: “They are part of the ‘Stars & Stripes’ program. These caps [for Memorial Day] are the first in a series of three, with the others coming out around July 4th and September 11th. Both of those caps will contain stars and stripes.” And based on what we’re seeing for Memorial Day, it’s reasonable to assume that these flag-desecration caps will be joined by flag-desecration jerseys. Grreeeaaaaaat.

Bonus: McDonald’s, one of America’s most ubiquitous, mundane institutions, might not seem like the best place to make compelling pictures. Nolan Conway thinks otherwise. (


In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, lawmakers raised taxes by $2 billion and passed a bill that will let some child and home care workers to vote to unionize. Today’s Question: How did the Minnesota Legislature do this session?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Millennials and politics.

Second hour: Jal Mehta, author of ‘The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling.’

Third hour: Fitzgerald Theater conversation with Temple Grandin.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): David Plotz, Slate magaine editor, speaking with MPR’s Eric Ringham at the MPR Broadcast Journalist Series event held last week at the University of St. Thomas.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – NPR will have the latest from Oklahoma.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a status-quo transportation funding bill, with no gas tax increase and no sales tax increase for transit, as transportation advocates and the business community were calling for. What happens to the backlog of transportation projects? What does this mean for the future of Southwest LRT? MPR’s Jess Mador has a look.

  • Chuck

    #1: Those are amazing videos of the OK tornadoes. They look just like the slim finger dropping from the sky in the Wizard of Oz. I’m sure these videos will rekindle my occasional dreams about tornadoes dipping down and then lowering their heads and bearing down on me where I’m cowering in some ditch outside. Thanks for the sleepless nights to come, Bob!

  • BJ

    #1, that guy who did the second video is an idiot.

  • BJ

    #3, only good thing this legislative session little “deficit-perpetuating fiscal trickery”. For the first time since Jesse Ventura was Governor.