May 20, 2003 ē By Ed Wrather
For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. - Isaiah 25:4.
Here in Sweetwater, Oklahoma some of us feel like we have been under attack with two tornadoes in a monthís time. One tornado did the most damage at the school, and the second tornado destroyed houses and barns in a large swath sweeping west to east, and then north. When hearing a weatherman warning of an approaching storm, we all pay much closer attention then we would have only a few weeks ago. Our memories of past storms, seem to dim with time, and our response to the storm warnings slow along with our memories. But we in tornado alley, are not the only ones needing an occasional reminder of the power of the storm.
We are thankful for advanced technology, and the diligence and bravery of many storm spotters, who provide us with an earlier warning than was possible in the past. Most likely, there would have been deaths and serious injuries in Sweetwater, if not for the warning system now available to us.
The most deadly tornado (F5 on the Fujita Scale) to hit Oklahoma, came on April 9, 1947 in Woodward. The tornado began near Canadian, Texas, and while moving toward the northeast, stayed on the ground for about 100 miles ending up west of Alva, Oklahoma. It was a huge tornado, 1.8 miles in width, moving at about 50 miles per hour. Glazier and Higgins, Texas were first devastated by the storm, with 69 deaths in Texas before reaching Oklahoma. While missing many towns on the way to Woodward, the tornado did strike and destroy buildings on 60 ranches and farms, with 8 people being killed and 42 injured. In Woodward, over 1000 homes and businesses were destroyed, and 107 people died; and there were about 1000 other injuries.
In part because of the Woodward tornado, also because of other storms, the Weather Bureau in 1953 instituted a tornado watch and warning program. In five decades, we have gone from having very little storm detection and warning, to having weathermen on TV with some of the most advanced radar available. We can also look at different radar sites on the Internet when information is not available on TV or radio.
With advance warning and advanced knowledge of the dangers of tornadoes, most people do try to find shelter; in a storm shelter, a basement, a safe room, or an inner room, or hallway. But strangely enough some, even when warned, still ignore the storm; believing they are somehow invincible, or that the odds are that they will not be hit. In the past, I have heard people speak contemptuously of those who go to a storm shelter as going to their "fraidy hole." Personally, when I know a storm possibly containing a tornado is headed for me, Iím going to the cellar if there is one for me to go to! God may very well protect me, but why tempt God (Matthew 4:7)?
There is another storm, which is sweeping across this world. It is a spiritual storm of sin and destruction. We have warning, and we have advanced knowledge about the devastating effects of sin. We can ignore those warnings, and see how close we can get to the storm of sin. If we do, there may very well come a time when the storm we are admiring will destroy us, just like the Woodward tornado destroyed so many. It does not have to be that way. There is a place of refuge from the storm. God, through Jesus Christ, is that refuge. He is the only refuge. Please donít ignore the storm warnings!!