Last Friday night and early Saturday morning, a series of powerful tornadoes ripped across Kentucky, one leaving a record-setting 227-mile-long swath of destruction. At last count, nearly 70 people were confirmed dead in the state’s “most devastating tornado event” in history, according to Kentucky’s governor, Andy Beshear.
It was one of several wild weather anomalies that also affected people in Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois, where a tornado killed six people at an Amazon warehouse.
According to the Associated Press, the line of destructive weather formed when unusually warm, moist air collided with a storm front pushed eastward by a La Nina weather pattern. The U.S. has seen tornadoes in December before, but never on this scale, and never in this number, according to officials. In mid-November, a series of significantly smaller tornadoes touched down across Long Island, including on the South Shore — a rare event for us indeed.
Scientists cannot directly link any single weather event like a tornado — or even a short-term pattern of tornadoes — to climate change, the heating of the Earth caused by the release of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. We can, however, make educated guesses. Of late, we’ve seen record or near-record high temperatures. Should we, on Long Island, see temperatures in the 60s in mid-December, just before the start of winter? Certainly not. Warmer temperatures produce erratic, potentially deadly weather.
Climate change might not produce a greater number of hurricanes — the bane of Long Island’s existence — but scientists tell us that it could very well produce more powerful storms like Hurricane Sandy, which leveled many parts of the South and North shores in 2012.
That’s why we must do everything we can to reduce or eliminate our dependence on coal, oil and natural gas, and instead turn to renewable resources like solar, wind and geothermal.
At the same time, we mustn’t forget the hardship that Sandy caused us here — and the kindness shown to us by people from across the country, who sent donations to help us through one of our darkest hours. Now it’s time to pay it forward, and donate to the good people of Kentucky, who will need years to restore their communities.
The State of Kentucky set up the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund over the weekend to provide direct relief to those whose lives have been upended by this natural disaster. If you can, please give. You can do so through this link: https://bit.ly/3pPGtnT.