1) PILING ON
As long as they're not hitting major cities, deaths by tornado are still relatively light in the U.S. That, of course has changed this year because the tornadoes have hit fairly major cities. The New York Times has put together this adjustable map (this is just an image of it, you'll have to go here to actually play with it) that shows the number of tornadoes in the U.S. each year, and the number of deaths overall.
The tornado season has just started, and already it's the worst year since 1953, when tornadoes struck the heavily populated areas of Texas, Michigan, and Massachusetts.
One other interesting aspect of this -- at least so far: Last year there was speculation that tornado alley was moving north. There were many tornadoes in Minnesota, but not as many in the south and southeast. Was 2010 a fluke? It's too early to say. June is the month here that features the most tornadoes.
Of course, we humans have been trying to capture the power of tornadoes with our photographs. Storm chasing is not something new. Slate has a slideshow of tornadoes through the decades.
But the ones from 2011, taken in Joplin, are absolutely devastating. Last night, two people working to rescue people in Joplin were struck by lightning.
A Facebook page has been set up to find Will Norton. He was a passenger in a car driven by his dad in Joplin on Sunday. The tornado ripped him out of his seat belts and sucked him through the car's sun roof.
Tornadoes have dealt north Minneapolis a bad hand, MPR's Laura Yuen rightly reports. When a tornado hits the suburbs, people rebuild their homes. In north Minneapolis, however, there are lots of renters and it's not up to them; it's up to their landlords.
Making it more complicated is the fact that north Minneapolis was already struggling with a housing crisis. In the four-square mile area that the city deems hardest hit, more than 270 homes were foreclosed in the past year.
Despite all of its challenges, the north side is home to plenty of strong churches, nonprofits, and neighborhoods. They've all come out in force to help with the recovery.
"The general attitude was, 'Who can we help? What can we do?' A lot of people's minds were on kids, their neighbors, who needed help, how can we move trees? Strong guys pulling things out of the way, helping old ladies, helping kids, helping moms. That's what goes on in our neighborhoods, too. We're not absent of that," former resident Michele Livingston told Yuen.
Sen. Linda Higgins has put together everything you need to know here.
What is it about tornadoes that brings out the worst in some of us? In Alabama, which still very much a disaster zone from tornadoes earlier this month, looting has victimized people who've lost almost everything...
2) THE MYTH OF THE RECYCLING BOX
In Duluth, some green boxes have sprouted, urging people to donate clothing. But they're not local, Perfect Duluth Day reports:
As a member of the City of Duluth Commission on Disabilities, I became aware that these boxes -- of which there are now at least 57 in Duluth and the surrounding communities -- have been placed here by a private for-profit business from the Twin Cities. Triangle Recycling owns the boxes and they sell the clothing collected in these boxes. They ship these clothes out of state to places like Texas and Mexico and keep 95% of the profits. According to the company's president, they donate 5% of their annual profits to the UCP, which is based in St. Cloud.
That is all good and fine, except these boxes are misleading and they are harming area nonprofits, such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and Savers, who depend on local donations to fund their programs, which provide jobs to people with disabilities, services to disabled vets, and other much needed services to people in our community who truly need them. All of these green boxes are on private property, mostly of local business owners, who were not given all of the facts by Triangle Recycling. Having spoken to several of these area business people, they were shocked and dismayed to hear the full story behind the green boxes.
This is big business. The Chicago Tribune investigated the industry and found it's being taken over by for-profit companies, many of whom pretend to be charitable, but aren't:
One of the biggest players, Gaia, falls in the first category. Over the last several years it has been criticized for characterizing itself as an environmental charity with projects around the world, when most of its environmental work remains collecting clothes for sale. Along with the related organizations Planet Aid and USAgain, Gaia has expanded in the last decade despite its connection to the controversial Danish organization Tvind, whose leader was acquitted of charges of money laundering and embezzlement in 2006.
3) FOREVER 70?
Seventy? How is that possible? Today is Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, a fact you were unlikely to miss if you're within a stone's throw of any place that documents pop culture. MPR is presenting a documentary on his life and music today. But why wait when you can find it here?
The Duluth News Tribune does its part, trotting out some old interviews with Dylan and some great pictures.
Do you ever listen to Garrison Keillor?
"A few years ago I used to listen to him. I like his show, I've always liked it."
Does it ever make you homesick for Minnesota?
"Well, ah... yeah, it does. Well, I don't get homesick for those kind of things he talkin' about because, ah, I don't know if my upbringing was like that. But I get homesick for where it all happened."
Everyone says it was a very warm home you and your brother, David, were brought up in.
"Well, we had a big family, like a big extended family. My grandmother had about 17 kids on the one side, and on the other side about 13 kids. So there was always a lot of family-type people around.
4) WHEN DREAMS GO TILT
Who could possibly have seen this coming? The National Pinball Hall of Fame is closing after just five months in operation. A guy put up $300,000 of his own money to open it. Silly? Maybe. But David Silverman says it's a dream he's had for a long time. He says he's not giving up, even though he's lost his lease. "This is America, and we're losing more and more of our history," he said. "We need a place where we can keep [pinball] as a permanent record."
You have to root for people chasing dreams. What's yours?
5) THE YAWN
Things are getting worse for the Twins. They lost again last night and have fallen 16 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central. That's the farthest they've been behind all year.
But is Kevin Slowey yawning really a problem?
Keeping you up, are we, Kevin? That's Twins Baseball notes that lots of people yawn, it's just that Slowey picked a bad time.
Bonus: This is a champion glider pilot in Italy doing his glider thing this week. Remember: No engine. Hang on.
President Obama says he wants to resume work on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. He favors a two-state solution drawn roughly along the lines of Israel's 1967 borders. Today's Question: What's the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Political reporters and analysts assess the legislative stalemate.
Second hour: Facts are often in dispute these days. And from the conspiracy over where the President born was to those who believe that 9/11 was an "inside job," there remains polarization over matters where the evidence seems unequivocal. Why do many people remain unconvinced by facts?
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: The post-legislative session fallout.
Second hour: Bob Dylan's 70th birthday.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: The politics of voter ID
Second hour: The role of the political spouse.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - - The U.S. Postal Service is hemorrhaging money, and talking about closing post offices. For small rural towns that lose a post office it's just another in a long series of losses as populations decline. MPR's Mark Steil will visit a few
MPR's Tom Weber will review the results the MCA standardized test, which are being released today. State officials are only releasing scores from the 10th grade reading and 11th grade math test. Included will be results from the GRAD, which is part of the MCA test.
I like you, north Minneapolis. You've got spunk. We love spunk. A tornado smashes your car, uproots your life, you pick yourself up and get down to making a YouTube video of it.
Comedian Joey Vincent reaffirms that sometimes all you can do is laugh so you don't cry. (Warning: Not suitable for workplace. Strong language and lots of "F bombs.")
It's below the fold...
Some people in Fillmore County might be feeling a little slighted; a tornado struck there on Sunday, too. It's not getting much attention. The Rochester Post Bulletin reports it was an EF-2 tornado, about the same size as the one that demolished parts of north Minneapolis
It's Amish country and in Harmony, the paper reports, neighbors helped pick up at a farm that was hit by the tornado. About 30 people used chainsaws, backhoes and horse-pulled Amish wagons to help the family clean up.
Unlike north Minneapolis, people in Harmony could see it coming...
I can't speak for MPR News, southeast Minnesota. No slight was intended.
Gov. Mark Dayton today vetoed all of the budget bills the Legislature sent to him and the game of "chicken" is on in earnest. The state needs a budget by July 1, or it will have to shut down for the second time in its history.
"It's too early to worry about that," some experts say. But that's the same thing they said in April when the Minnesota Twins came out of Florida and promptly fell on their faces. Moral? It's never too early to expect the worst, especially when Republicans and Democrats are as far apart on the basic expectations of government as they currently are.
Remember, too, that last January, one House committee was already hearing about government shutdowns. It wasn't too early then, either.
What can we expect in a state government shutdown? Let 2005 be our guide.
1) Forget about saving any money.
Government shutdowns don't save the government money. On the contrary, they're pricey. For example, after 10 days, state workers are eligible for layoff pay. Many will burn vacation time to keep a paycheck coming in, but even then they don't see the cash right away. They won't actually get it until the budget is passed. But it will cost the state about $2 million a day. And the cost of preparing for a shutdown is considerable, even if the state doesn't go toes up. In 2001, it cost $2.7 million, even though the state didn't shut down.
State workers often need that second paycheck in July to make the mortgage payment. Many will not be able to make it.
2) Schedule a driver's license exam now.
Put driver's ed on the fast track. The driver's license testing stations will likely close right away. Licenses and tabs could probably still be renewed.
3) Closed rest areas
This won't be that big of a deal, although you can count on seeing lots of visuals on TV and newspapers. There are only a few dozen rest areas in Minnesota anyway and, besides, truck stops and convenience stores are all located off major highways and they have restrooms.
4) Plan your vacation somewhere else.
State Parks will close. But because the July 4th weekend is so important in Minnesota, the Legislature would likely pass a natural resources budget first. Still, you'll have to decide whether it's worth the gamble. Wisconsin is lovely at this time of the year.
MnDOT (the Department of Transportation) would likely be the hardest hit. Construction projects might shut down. Potholes won't be filled. If there are hazards on a highway that couldn't be removed, the roads would be closed. Roadsides won't be mowed. The traffic cameras would be shut down. The Highway Helpers will disappear.
About three or four thousand MnDOT employees would likely be furloughed.
6) Battered women and children endangered?:
Some battered women and children shelters could close after several days. State grants which fund them wouldn't be authorized. A judge would likely determine whether some services are "essential," and would need to be funded.
7) What's essential?
In 2005, the state deemed these functions to be "essential" and, thus, funded:
• Medical care of inpatients and emergency outpatient care;
• Activities essential to ensure continued public health and safety, including safe use of
food, drugs, and hazardous materials;
• Continuance of transportation safety functions and the protection of transport property;
• Protection of lands, buildings, waterways, equipment and other property owned by the
• Care of prisoners and other persons in the custody of the government;
• Law enforcement and criminal investigations;
• Emergency and disaster assistance;
• Activities that ensure the production of power and the maintenance of the power
• Activities essential to the preservation of the essential elements of the financial system of the government, including the borrowing and tax collection activities of the government;
• Activities necessary to maintain protection of research property.
It's possible that the Legislature could pass a "light's on" bill in a special session, continuing funding at current levels. But that's more likely if a broader framework for an agreement on budget issues has been reached or is at hand. Passing a "light's on" bill, however, takes the pressure off reaching deals. There isn't a lot that politicians at the Capitol agree on, but "light's on" is usually one of them. They hate "light on" bills.(30 Comments)
By way of WCCO, North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale has released security camera footage of the tornado that ripped through north Minneapolis on Sunday.
Presumably, more of these types of videos will trickle out, but so far in a city full of security cameras and a few hundred thousand people, there have been very few videos of the actual tornado that caused such havoc.
Meanwhile, the city of Minneapolis provided this update on the recovery efforts this afternoon:
People are retuning to their homes: Following Sunday's tornado, emergency managers divided the area affected into three zones, and to date residents in zone 1 and zone 2 have been allowed to return home. Within these zones, staff have spent the days going block-by-block, door-to-door, assessing damage, evaluating the safety of structures, and clearing debris to reopen streets. As areas are cleared, residents (only residents) will be allowed to return to their homes. If staff identify a property as unsafe, they will place an orange placard on the front door. Owners and residents should not enter a property that has been identified as unsafe. City officials are working to clear the way so it's safe for folks in all three zones to return to their homes by Wednesday.
Continued housing for affected families: The shelter set up at the Northeast Armory accommodated 61 people overnight and is continuing today to provide services to people in need but the number of people needing shelter services is going down as more people are returning to their homes. Since Tuesday, more than two dozen families with children have moved from the shelter to the recently-renovated Drake Hotel Downtown. People who need assistance can still go to the Armory at 1025 Broadway Ave. If folks need transportation to the Armory, call 311. Since opening Sunday, 535 have gotten assistance at the shelter.
All streets now accessible to emergency vehicles: Minneapolis Public Works crews, in partnership with Xcel Energy, have been working to clear debris and downed power lines. Streets are now passable for emergency vehicles and work continues to clear them curb to curb to accommodate all traffic.
Update on alley cleanup, trash pickup: Together with Xcel Energy, Public Works crews began the work of clearing alleys today, beginning with the hardest hit areas. Garbage pickup is proceeding as normal, if possible. Public Works is also looking to giving residents in the affected area additional vouchers for excess garbage and debris that would not normally be picked up by garbage crews to the South Transfer Station located at 2850 20th Ave. S. Residents normally are allowed six vouchers per year.
Tree damage and cleanup: Approximately 2,000 trees in parks and along boulevards were downed or damaged during the tornado. Minneapolis Public Works, Park Board and St. Paul Forestry have been working to make the roads passable in the storm damaged area.
Beginning May 25 through June 10 Public Works and Park Board crews will collect large debris for properties in the city west of Interstate 94 and north of Highway 55 (Olson Memorial Highway). This service is for property owners clearing their property after storm damage only--it is not for contractors doing work for property owners or for regular tree pruning. Visit the City's website or call 311 for more information. Homeowners should not mix construction debris with tree debris.
Beginning Wednesday the Forestry Division will begin renting cranes to remove boulevard trees that have fallen on homes.
Utilities update: After Sunday's tornado, Xcel Energy estimated that 28,000 homes were without power. As of today, 7,000 homes are without power and Xcel hopes to have power restored to them by tomorrow. Once Xcel Energy repairs its power lines, it is still possible for homes to be without power if their mast is damaged. It is the homeowner's responsibility to higher a licensed electrician to repair the damaged mast. One of the biggest safety concerns is still downed power lines, and if people see lines down, they should assume they're live. Stay away from downed lines and report them to Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-4995.
Center Point Energy addressed more than 100 gas leaks following Sunday's tornado and have been working to restore gas service to properties that had it shut off. If you need a safety check on your property or would like the gas turned back on, call 1-800-234-5800.
How the public can help: People throughout Minneapolis and the region have been asking how they can help people affected by the tornado. There are several ways to help:
· Donate funds, not goods - The Minneapolis Foundation has established the Minnesota Helps - North Minneapolis Recovery Fund to assist with both short-term and long-term housing and recovery-related needs on the North Side. The Minneapolis Foundation will match donations. To make a donation by credit card, visit http://givemn.razoo.com/story/Northminneapolisrecovery or send checks for the recovery effort to The Minneapolis Foundation, 80 S. 8th St., Suite 800, Minneapolis, MN, 55402. People can also donate to the Red Cross at www.redcrosstc.org. Please do not donate goods at this time.
· In the coming days, volunteers will be needed - There are crews working already in the neighborhoods, but the conditions are not yet safe enough to accommodate volunteers. The City and Urban Homeworks, a local nonprofit, will be making a call to volunteers in the coming days, but at this point it is not safe to bring folks in.
As the experts predicted, all getout is breaking loose in "tornado alley" this afternoon. At least one large one -- a local meteorologist calls it "a monster" -- is dancing around the Oklahoma City area this afternoon. Watch live coverage of it on KFOR in Oklahoma, and note the in-the-field stormchaser the station uses.
The station here features a live camera and audio from a helicopter that's chasing the storm.
An aside: The big American Family Insurance mobile disaster bus that pulled into north Minneapolis yesterday is pulling out and heading to Oklahoma this evening. A smaller unit will replace it in the parking lot of the Cub on Broadway. But the initial fear is that the tornadoes in Oklahoma will be like the ones in Alabama a few weeks ago.