Alabama editorial roundup

Wire
Posted 3/10/16

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

The Gadsden Times on tornado season in Alabama:

Alabama hasn’t reached triple digits in tornadoes since the hellish year of 2011. (April 27 of that year gained permanent bold print status in the …

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Alabama editorial roundup

Posted

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

The Gadsden Times on tornado season in Alabama:

Alabama hasn’t reached triple digits in tornadoes since the hellish year of 2011. (April 27 of that year gained permanent bold print status in the state’s history books; are we really approaching the fifth anniversary?)

The trend so far in 2016, however, is ominous. Preliminary National Weather Service statistics show 20 tornadoes in Alabama in January and February (there were only 32 in 2015), and that’s not counting the EF2 twister that caused damage and injuries Tuesday night in western Jefferson County.

That certainly isn’t welcome news, especially heading into March and April, which statistically have been Alabama’s busiest tornado months (although the season really never ends here).

It spotlights this week’s gathering of scientists from various academic, governmental and research groups in the Southeast to launch VORTEX-SE (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment, Southeast.)

The project is based at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and has a $5 million budget.

It’s an effort similar to those made in the Great Plains’ “Tornado Alley,” which were the grist for the 1996 film “Twister.”

The goal is to gain better understanding of tornadoes and improve warning systems for them. Our question is “what took so long?”

According to the Storm Prediction Center, an average of 40 Southeastern residents were killed by tornadoes each year between 1985 and 2014, four times the rate of the “Tornado Alley” states (Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas). Alabama averaged the most deaths, 14.

Researchers say tornadoes are harder to chase and behave differently in the woodsy, hilly South compared to the Plains flatlands. Emergency management personnel say the terrain also makes twisters difficult to spot and issue timely warnings for.

That’s why the VORTEX-SE researchers aren’t going to be chasing wall clouds and storm systems like Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt in the movie. They’re going to set up at various sites in the region and wait for storms. History says they won’t get bored.

We think the money allocated for the project is well spent. Any new insight gained about these monstrous forces of nature will be positive and potentially life-saving.

However, what should Alabamians do now to protect themselves, given the present knowledge base? You’ve heard this advice from meteorologists and emergency management personnel before, but there’s no such thing as reminding people too many times about something so important.

Pay attention to forecasts and don’t get snarky and dismissive if things on a given day don’t turn out as predicted. Meteorology is an imperfect science, but we’ll remind you that forecasters predicted what happened April 27, 2011, well in advance and no one should’ve been caught by surprise.

Get a weather radio and download weather and alert notification apps to your smartphones or tablets, so you’ll get the most immediate warnings of bad weather. Don’t depend on the old-fashioned siren system that rarely gives people enough time to take cover.

Have a severe weather plan for your homes and families, or be cognizant of where the nearest shelters are if you live in a mobile home or don’t have a basement.

Those steps aren’t obsessive or panicky. They’re simply the embodiment of “being prepared” — which is a good thing.

— The Gadsden Times

The Montgomery Advertiser on a replacement for Alabama State Schools Superintendent:

Following the March 31 retirement of Alabama State Schools Superintendent Tommy Bice, announced Tuesday, the search for a replacement will begin.

The importance of finding a highly qualified man or woman for the position can’t be over-emphasized.

No one, of course, thinks Alabama’s schools are anywhere close to laudable or even acceptable, particularly in impoverished urban and rural areas.

Dismal test scores recently released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed the state ranking at the bottom among 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Those numbers reflect the state’s long and shameful history of low and inconsistent proficiency standards. Bice sought to end or ameliorate that by implementing the more rigorous Alabama College and Career Ready Standards and Plan 2020 on his watch.

That work must continue under the next superintendent. He or she must also have these qualifications:

A long and proven history as a high-level education professional capable of handling the enormous duties of the job, with sterling credentials as a pro-public school champion. No proponents of more private-school vouchers and tax credits draining money from public schools, please.

Political acumen to interact with Alabama’s GOP-dominated leadership in ways that stymie more money grabs from school funding pots and thwart ill-considered laws that damage education or demonize teachers.

A forceful track record of implementing reforms and innovations to help students of all backgrounds, races, ethnic groups and economic circumstances succeed academically.

Expertise in digital and technical advances rapidly changing present-day curriculum and learning strategies.

Alabama’s children deserve nothing less than an exceptional, seasoned hand at the helm of the state’s struggling schools.

— The Montgomery Advertiser