Missing out on history

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By Vince Luecke

A bumpy flight into Evansville Regional Airport was about all I experienced, at least firsthand, of the windstorm that scoured southern Indiana Sept. 14. I left two days earlier to visit friends in the Plains but would have left them high and dry to experience an event that (hopefully) will never be felt here again.

The remains of Hurricane Ike didn't deliver the rain that we needed but it brought gale-force winds that peeled off roofs and toppled trees. I called a policeman friend to check on what I'd missed over the past couple of days - I already knew about the pursuit early Sunday morning - and thought the cop, known to be a jokester, was pulling my leg when he told me roofs were gone from the post office, EverBody's, the Hideaway and several other locations about town.

Sitting in the airport at Memphis a few hours earlier with a local radar pulled up on my laptop computer, I knew the rain that drenched much of the rest of Indiana was going to miss us, and I saw where the county was under a wind advisory with gusts predicted of 30 to 40 mph. A high-wind warning was subsequently issued.

The flight into Evansville was bumpy not really what I'd call white-knuckle. Traveling into Spencer County, I saw trees lying in yards and closed roads. Things were the same in Troy and Tell City.

Tragically, one person lost his life here Sunday evening while removing tree debris and several others were killed across the state.

Farmers' corn fields took a devastating hit, with the wind toppling plants in many fields. Despite the recent dry weather, farmers were looking forward to a good harvest. That changed in just a couple of hours.

It remains to be seen how much of the crop will make it into farmers' bins - and how much will be left on the ground.

With cash corn prices at more than $4.50 per bushel, it's a shame to see money left behind. Many farmers are ordering special attachments for their combines that will help pick up much of the downed corn, but plenty will be left behind. Scouting, 4-H and church groups may want to approach farmers about gleaning corn from fields. A couple dozen pairs of young hands might be able to pick up much of the corn equipment won't be able to harvest and perhaps they and farmers could split what can be saved.

I've heard several older folks who can recall drought years and winter storms 30, 40 and even 50 years ago but said they saw nothing like last Sunday's hours-long windstorm. Hopefully, none of us will again.

My lesson is to spend less time traveling, for it seems something big happens whenever I travel out of town.

Though I wasn't around for their immediate response to the windstorm, I know city, county and state workers, along with utility employees, deserve credit for their hard work helping clear streets and restore power.

Southern Indiana Power hoped to have service restored to all of its members by Saturday. We received a handful of calls from people upset they were still without power. I can understand their anger but I have no doubt crews worked as quickly as they could while remaining safe. Employees can't work nonstop; they have to sleep occasionally.

There are a surprisingly large number of people who rely on medical equipment and for whom a lengthy loss of electricity creates real concerns. It might be wise for all of us to consider updating our emergency plans on how to deal with an extended power outage. Do we have enough nonperishable food to last a week it we can't get out? Where will our loved ones on oxygen machines go if there's no electricity? Is it time to invest in a generator? Some neighborhoods might want to chip in and buy one together that could be used to keep freezers cold and medically vulnerable people safe until things get back to normal.

Let's be honest. Winter is coming and major storms have done to us before what Ike's leftovers did this month.