Meteorologist reassures students in tornado-ravaged West Liberty

jwarren@herald-leader.comApril 11, 2012 

Television meteorologist Chris Bailey told students in West Liberty about storms and tornadoes Wednesday, and their principal said it was good therapy for youngsters who recently have seen about the worst that the weather can offer.

"I think Chris reassured them quite a bit that every gray cloud doesn't bring a tornado," said C. Thomas Potter, principal at West Liberty's East Valley Elementary School, where Bailey spoke with students in grades two through five. "It's all they've talked about this afternoon."

The tornado that ripped through Morgan County on March 2 killed six people, devastated downtown West Liberty, destroyed an elementary school and damaged many homes across the county.

Potter said many students at his school continue to deal with the emotional effects of the storm more than a month later.

"For a lot of the children, they're still trying to get roofs put back on, trying to get their homes ready to live in," he said. "Children don't have the coping mechanisms that you and I have to get through these life-changing events. I'm just now starting to see some of the outcropping behaviors and concerns from what they've gone through, the anxiety and fear.

"It's impacting the little ones in a lot of ways," Potter said, even children who didn't lose homes or loved ones.

Bailey said he was impressed by the responses of the children.

"I was amazed by how many of them were personally impacted by the tornado on March 2," he said. "I would ask each classroom how many of them actually had a chance to see the tornado as it was happening, and so many hands would go up."

Among other things, Bailey displayed slides of weather radar pictures showing the storm as it approached West Liberty. He also explained how tornadoes develop and how relatively rare they are.

"I was impressed by just how up-to-date they are now on ever-changing weather conditions," he said. "These are kids who lived through a lot on March 2 and really have endured a lot over the six weeks since then."

Bailey said he stressed to all the children that there was little chance they would face another tornado during their lifetimes.

"I just wanted to talk to them about how rare something like this is and try to calm any fears they might have that it could happen again the next time there's a thunderstorm," he said.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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