August 18, 2011 in Nation/World

Tornado can’t delay start of school year

Three months after twister Joplin students back in class
Laura Bauer McClatchy
Associated Press photo

Students carry donated school supplies to a classroom at a temporary high school in a shopping mall in Joplin, Mo., on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

Weather disasters costly this year

 LOS ANGELES – A recent report from the National Climatic Data Center shows that in 2011 alone, there have been nine U.S. weather-related disasters that have each caused more than $1 billion in damages. The report estimates these disasters have cost the U.S. $35 billion so far this year.

 The most expensive of the 2011 disasters detailed in the report is a series of tornadoes that hit the central and Southern states from April 25 to 30. States affected include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Oklahoma. A total of 305 tornadoes swept through those states, causing total losses greater than $9 billion.

 It was also the deadliest disaster. The tornadoes killed 327 people.

Giving the tornadoes a run for their money as the most expensive disaster is the combined drought, heat wave and wildfires affecting a large swath of the nation including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, southern Kansas, western Arkansas and Louisiana this spring and summer.

Los Angeles Times

JOPLIN, Mo. – Nearly 90 days after a tornado wiped out one-third of this town, its school district has done something many people didn’t think possible.

Some even laughed when Superintendent C.J. Huff said in late May that classes would start on time, that he and other district leaders would come up with the space and textbooks and classrooms and equipment that more than 4,000 students no longer had. That somehow he and the others would make the district, with half of its building destroyed or severely damaged, whole again. Wednesday morning, he ended up being right.

Just after 7:30 a.m., buses pulled up to elementary schools, letting out eager 6- and 7-year-olds. Parents snapped photos. Middle-schoolers tried out their lockers.

And at 8:30, about 2,000 high school students were walking down new halls, scanning their schedules to see what room they were supposed to be in.

Just like they would any other year. Only, it was a little different.

Some of the students sat at new desks inside trailers, others in old school buildings that hadn’t seen students in a while. And the juniors and seniors? They were at the town shopping mall.

“We’ve been through a lot as a community, you’ve been through a lot,” high school Principal Kerry Sachetta told a cafeteria full of juniors as they each received a laptop for the school year. “We need to remember that, but we also need to rejoice.”

He went on to tell them how he, the community and others across the nation have high expectations for them this year.

“You’re in a mall,” Sachetta said, as laughter filled the cafeteria. “And we’re going to have school, and you’re going to like it.”

Throughout the summer, construction crews and architects, volunteers and district faculty and staff put in countless hours so this day could happen. The tornado destroyed or severely damaged nine of the district’s 19 buildings, killed 160 people and injured 900 more. Businesses, churches and homes were demolished.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email