Twisters, Floods, Drought—What’s Wrong With the Weather?
The United States had already experienced its deadliest tornado season since the mid-1970s, with 365 deaths. Then came Joplin.
“You see pictures of World War ii, the devastation and all that with the bombing. That’s really what it looked like,” said Joplin High School Principal Kerry Sachetta. “I just couldn’t believe what I saw.”
On May 22, a twister ripped through the Missouri town killing 125 people and injuring some 1,150 more, according to early figures. Swaths of suburbia a half-mile wide were leveled along a six-mile stretch, leaving the town unrecognizable. Debris from a hospital that was hit was found 60 miles away.
“You could have probably dropped a nuclear bomb on the town and I don’t think it would have done near as much damage as it did,” said cnn iReporter Zach Tusinger, who lost his uncle and aunt in the tornado.
The Joplin tornado killed more people than any tornado since records started being kept six decades ago, and made 2011 the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1953.
Another 67 twisters touched down the same day across the Midwest. Two days later, five more tornadoes hit Oklahoma, killing nine, including two small children from one heartbroken family just a few miles from the Trumpet’s offices.
This was all less than a month after 362 tornadoes hit seven states in just four terrifying days—a rampage that killed over 350 people, injured thousands more, cut power to a million others, and splintered entire towns. It was the worst disaster in America since Katrina.
A record-shattering 312 of those tornadoes touched down within a single 24-hour period between April 27 and 28; before then, the most America had ever seen in a single day was 148. The most violent twister was 20 times normal size. This monster tore a scar one mile wide and a record 300 miles long across Alabama and Georgia.
Remarkably, this all hit just days after another devastating rash of 155 tornadoes between April 14 and 16.
How unusual was this? The previous 10 Aprils each spawned an average of 161 tornadoes in the U.S.; the previous April record was 267. But in April of this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa) estimates the number of twisters to touch down on American soil was an unparalleled 600-plus.
“This is a history-making tornado outbreak,” said meteorologist Jeff Masters.
The crazy thing is, when it comes to disasters, “history-making” is becoming commonplace.
Every few weeks it seems, the Earth unleashes unprecedented fury of another sort. One more dreadful record falls, and another constellation of survivors is left breathless in its wake.
What’s wrong with the weather? You have to have blinders on not to at least be asking the question.
Even with Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee in states of emergency from the tornadoes, other disasters are striking elsewhere in the country.
Texas is withering from its worst drought since 1895. None of the state is drought-free, according the U.S. Drought Monitor’s May 17 edition; over 80 percent is in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. This is demolishing the state’s wheat production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects wheat production to drop 63 percent in Texas this year—which is certain to hurt already-low global supplies.
The bone-dry conditions have created a tinderbox for wildfires. More than 6,900 separate blazes this year have torched more than 2 million acres across the state. “At times, we were literally burning border to border,” said a Texas Forest Service spokesperson. “I’ve never seen anything like it” (emphasis mine).
Wildfires are also blazing in Arizona, charring more than 40,000 acres so far.
Many people in these parched and blackened regions must be shaking their heads at the irony as they see other parts of the country being deluged with severe flooding.
Downpours across the South have swamped 3.6 million acres of farmland, 1 million acres in Arkansas alone.
Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois and Louisiana have also been hit hard after heavy rains and melting snow swelled the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to record levels. Federal authorities in Missouri were forced to blast a levee that was creaking under the strain of floodwaters, inundating a 200-square-mile region. “Nobody has seen this type of water in the system,” the president of the Mississippi River Commission said. “It’s an unprecedented flood.”
These where-did-this-come-from, once-in-a-lifetime, never-before-witnessed calamities are piling up on top of one another. Why? Scientists are scrambling for answers.
Climate change models do not explain the increase in disasters hitting the U.S. right now. “Some ingredients that are favorable to tornadoes will increase in a warming world, others will decrease,” says Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
“I don’t think there’s any way of proving climate change is responsible for the weather patterns this week and week before,” said meteorologist Howard Bluestein of the University of Oklahoma in the first week of May.
After the Joplin tornado, a National Weather Service representative said it was hard to find correlation between climate change and the weather in spring 2011. “We just don’t know,” he said.
Whatever instruments and computer models they consult, however, scientists are overlooking the most important dimension to this trend.
That is, that weather is not entirely random.
It has a Maker. And it has a Sustainer.
If you believe the Bible, God challenges you to accept its assertion that He has power over the potent and destructive phenomena that are increasingly besieging our world. He can create them, and He can prevent them.
Job 38:28, for example, reveals God as the father of rain. He is able to command storm clouds, tornadoes and hurricanes to serve His purposes: “Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north. By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened. Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth. He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy” (Job 37:9-13).
Yes, sometimes God bathes the Earth with gentle rain to show His loving concern and mercy—and other times God uses the weather, including floods and tornadoes, to correct people!
The God of the Bible is not impotent. He likens His judgment against the wicked to a tornado or hurricane (e.g. Jeremiah 23:19; 30:23-24). He uses the punitive sword of flood and mildew—and also that of drought (Deuteronomy 28:22; 11:17). Sometimes He wields both at the same time in order to heighten their corrective power (Amos 4:7).
The Bible also reveals that God has set spiritual and physical laws in motion, and that in this present age He is allowing mankind to develop its own ways of living—contrary to those laws—and to reap the natural consequences that result, including weather upsets.
Further, God, in His great purpose, also allows Satan the devil—the current (and temporary) god of this world, according to 2 Corinthians 4:4—to have a role in producing catastrophic weather, for man’s ultimate learning (see Job 1).
We should consider the worsening weather trend a warning from God. That’s not to say—as Christ Himself clarified—that those specifically hit by these storms are any more sinful than those who were spared. We should recognize these as being curses on and warnings to the nation, not particular individuals. Christ’s message was, “[E]xceptye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Biblical prophecy shows that we can expect this increasingly chaotic weather to get far, far worse very soon (see Revelation 6:5-8; 8:4-12). The powerful natural forces are going to be unleashed upon a disobedient world to bring it to its knees in repentance.
In Leviticus 26, God promises “rain in due season” and that “the land shall yield her increase” (verse 4)—“if ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them” (verse 3). Were the nations to do so, we would find ourselves blessed with beautiful weather and stable climates. We would not have to fear crop failures and famine, or being killed in a severe weather event.
We can—and prophecy shows, we will—experience prosperous living with pleasant weather—when we acknowledge and obey God, His laws and His benevolent rule.