Thune: Picking up the pieces

Farm Forum

Mother Nature’s storms, floods, and tornados move quickly into communities, but can leave a lasting wake of devastation and destruction in their paths. We’ve seen the pictures on the news and heard the stories about the damage of the flooding in southeast South Dakota and the wreckage from the tornado in Wessington Springs. It is heartbreaking to watch our neighbors, friends, and communities prepare for the worst and react to a lifetime of memories and hard work destroyed.

Fortunately, South Dakotans are among the most resilient, generous, and caring people I know. Disaster reveals our true resolve and our willingness to help out in the most difficult circumstances. We have already seen the support of hundreds of National Guard troops, Red Cross volunteers, Federal Emergency Management Agency staff, firefighters, police, medical personnel, neighbors, and friends who have stepped up to provide shelter, food, and assistance to those in need.

On June 20th, I visited Wessington Springs to survey the storm and tornado damage with Mayor Melissa Mebius. I had the opportunity to visit with members of the community who lost their homes and businesses and learn what questions they have for federal officials. While the community has a long road ahead, many of the men and women I talked to are thankful for their safety, the support they’ve received, and are committed to picking up the pieces and rebuilding.

As we work to provide our communities with needed assistance, I also recognize the importance of improving our severe weather forecasting tools to provide early and accurate notifications. As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the National Weather Service (NWS), I am committed to looking for opportunities to improve NWS’s severe weather research, its forecasting of these devastating events, and the communication of these forecasts.

While the flood waters recede, the debris is slowly collected, and the news articles begin to fade, let us all remain vigilant in helping our fellow South Dakotans recover from the storms and tornados. Sometimes it takes the worst of circumstances to bring out our best.