09/10/07 — Storm chaser: Get prepared now

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Storm chaser: Get prepared now

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on September 10, 2007 2:07 PM

Storm-chasing Eddy Weiss thinks there is a connection between the number of Wal-Marts and the amount of stocked food in country pantries.

Weiss spoke to a Mount Olive College audience last week about making disaster-resistant communities.

The convenience of 24-hour shopping has allowed preparedness to slip away as an American value, he says. Country pantries used to be the size of "what you'd call a bedroom now."

Those food stores can be a family's means for survival when disaster strikes, he said, adding dwindling pantries represent unprepared communities.

"What happened to the America where we were resilient? What happened to the country I grew up watching on 'Little House on the Prairie'?" Weiss said in an interview before his speaking engagement.

Weiss tours the country in a storm-chasing vehicle named Dorothy, giving about 150 lectures a year and also acting as emergency manager for the 141-resident village of Oconto, Neb., he said.

He said his 16-some years of storm chasing have shown him many surprised faces after disaster strikes.

One in particular was the infamous Andover Outbreak -- when 32 tornados struck Kansas throughout the day of April 26, 1991.

People responded to the disaster with bewilderment, and many weren't prepared for such a crisis, Weiss said.

Why? Weiss thinks part of it is the complacency inspired by the availability of retailers like Wal-Mart, he said.

Weiss said one of his most popular talks is how Wal-Mart has affected American life.

"It was funny -- when I first talked to the Wal-Mart Corp. about it, they had asked me what it was about," Weiss said. "I tell them 'How Wal-Mart is ruining America' ... but wait, there's more."

That presentation "is really about how Wal-Mart affects our lives -- we can choose how it affects our lives," Weiss said.

The ease and convenience of knowing a box of diapers is a debit card swipe away might allow some mothers to wait until there's one diaper left, Weiss said.

If a disaster does strike, and 24-hour outlets like Wal-Mart aren't open, having just one diaper becomes a problem.

But instead of lamenting the effects of Wal-Mart, one can use the one-stop-shopping to make preparing for disaster a quick proposition, the storm chaser said.

"We did it one afternoon as an experiment. It took us a hair over two hours to put together one home disaster kit," he said.

Weiss founded the organization Chasing4Life after beginning his career in the ministry as an evangelist with a storm-chasing hobby, he said.

He says his lectures have a hard-punching style, and uses the slogan "Prepare to have your reality violated," on the organization's Web site.

"I don't mince words, I never do," Weiss said. "I thank God for (storm chasing vehicle) Dorothy -- she's the one that gathers the crowd."