"Miracle at Mapleton"

“Last night we thought we’d be dealing with at least a dozen deaths,” [Sheriff Jack] Pratt said. “It must have been our advanced warning and the grace of God….”

Quote, headline, and photo from Sioux City “Journal”
Des Moines Register photo by Justin Hayworth

In Warnings and at some of my in-person presentations (including tomorrow’s at the Kansas Cosmosphere), I talk about the “Miracle at Greensburg” — how weather science saved more than 230 lives that horrible Friday evening in 2007.

Last night, we had the “Miracle at Mapleton” when a tornado destroyed most of the town of 1,200 without a single death or serious injury! The Des Moines Register picks up the story…

Mapleton Mayor Fred Standa said it was “amazing” that no one was severely hurt or killed. The tornado rolled through Mapleton around 7:20 p.m., but Standa said that tornado sirens provided at least 20 minutes notice.
“I think everyone had adequate time to get to a safe place, but it’s amazing that nobody was injured when probably about 60 percent of the town was flattened. … The only thing that’s in one piece is the community center,” he said.

This is the type of storm that used to kill dozens. Now, the lack of deaths is just a sidenote in the news coverage. But, that “adequate time” and “20 minutes notice” are not coincidences — they are the result of a sixty year journey of hard work and good science by the meteorological profession.

I want to take a moment to celebrate the work yesterday of the National Weather Service in Omaha that issued the warnings, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman that issued the tornado watch, and the storm chasers and spotters that reported the exact position of the storm and then helped in the rescue effort.

The fascinating unknown story about how we “tamed” the weather is the one I tell in Warnings. With tornado season in full swing (more expected later today!), it might be a good time to pick up a copy.

NOTE: Bumped due to severe weather coverage.

2 thoughts on “"Miracle at Mapleton"

  1. Great post Mike! We were on the mapleton storm and thought for sure we were going to be pulling out severe injuries or worse… I couldn't believe I didn't see a single injury as we went house to house… truly miraculous that this is possible in such a few short decades….

  2. Kate,

    Thank you for being among the chasers who were first responders!

    There is no question that meteorology is making major, but largely unrecognized, progress and saves thousands of lives each year. Please refer your friends to this post — I want to educate them!

    Mike