“Acts of God” as Failures of People

The hits just keep coming…weather hits, that is, resulting in entirely preventable casualties and damage.

Last evening at the Omaha (OMA) airport, planes full of passengers sat out on the tarmac amidst two severe thunderstorms, both bearing hail and damaging wind, the second with extremely severe gusts measured at up to 92 mph at the airport. A CNN story indicates a Southwest plane was boarding while one of the severe storms was moving into the airport grounds.

How could this be? The airport was under severe thunderstorm warnings, had been in a severe thunderstorm watch since 1:30 p.m., and an upgrade to tornado watch at 6:40 p.m. before the second storm. As far back as shortly after midnight the night before, the OMA area was smack-dab in the middle of an enhanced probability specifically for damaging thunderstorm gusts. And yet those planes, crew and passengers got caught in exactly such storms.


Meteorologist Mike Smith has posted an illuminating and provocative BLOG entry about this event, with emphasis on the second storm.

As in the St. Louis airport-tornado incident of the past spring, that sort of unawareness of, and/or unwillingness to respond to, impending severe weather is absolutely inexcusable for any major public facility, much less an airport and airlines whose core business model and operations depend on…you guessed it…weather!

From abroad arises news of another five-death thunderstorm-wind event at a fairground, this time in Belgium. From Euronews:

Does that look familiar?

I’ll say again, these are not “Acts of God”, but instead, failures of people. Storms have roamed across the land for millennia. The difference now is that they are usually predictable. If we put in front of these storms such enticements to mayhem as airplanes full of passengers, casino or convention tents, flimsy stage rigs amidst thousands of unprotected outdoor spectators, or stick-like houses with little or no bracing that seem designed by Big Bad Wolf Architects LLC, then of course bad things will happen and people will suffer. The solution involves foresight, awareness and preparedness!


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