Daily Video

March 6, 2019

Alabama tornado aftermath, getting help and studying why



Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. You may want to read along using the transcript here or turn on “CC” closed-captions. 


Summary: Officials have released the names of 23 people who died from a tornado that hit Lee County, Alabama, on Sunday. Rescue efforts are winding down, though many residents will face a long road to recovery after losing homes and livelihoods to the 170 mile-per-hour winds. President Donald Trump, who plans to visit victims of the tornado on Friday, tweeted: “FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes.” This was in contrast to how he reacted to Californians after last spring’s wildfires and victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, which included rhetoric blaming local leaders. Over the past thirty years, tornadoes have shifted their location — decreasing in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas but increasing in states along the Mississippi River and farther east, according to a recent study in the journal Climate and Atmospheric Science. Scientists aren’t certain why this shift has taken place but are continuing their research.


Discussion questions: 


1) Essential question: How should leaders at the local, state and national levels respond after a natural disaster wreaks havoc?


2) How do members of the public begin to get the help they need after a natural disaster? What forms of help are available? If time allows, listen to this NPR story to learn how funds were allocated following Texas’ Hurricane Harvey.


3) What factors cause a tornado to form? Check out this website and visit NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Storm Prediction Center to learn more.


4) Media literacy: Read The Washington Post’s “Trump vowed ‘A Plus’ relief for Alabama. That’s not what California and Puerto Rico heard.” What was President Trump’s reaction to sending federal disaster aid to Alabama after Sunday’s tornado hit? How about after California’s wildfires or Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria? Why do you think there was a difference in Trump’s reactions between the events? How should the federal government respond to extreme weather events?


Extension activities:


Read NewsHour’s Is climate change making U.S. tornadoes worse? by science reporter Nsikan Akpan. Ask your students: Why is it okay for scientists to be uncertain as to the reasons behind major weather events? In a tweet, Akpan writes: “Uncertainty is essential to scientific discovery, and we spend too little time discussing it.” How might uncertainty help scientists understand the causes of extreme weather events like tornadoes and hurricanes?


Read the Associated Press’ Tornadoes are spinning up farther east in U.S., study finds. “The study looked at changes since 1979. Everywhere east of the Mississippi, except the west coast of Florida, is seeing some increase in tornado activity. The biggest increase occurred in states bordering the Mississippi River,” the article states. How could you find out more about this study and other research that scientists are conducting on tornadoes?


Extra, extra read all about! You may have heard the term “Student Voice” in school or over social media. What does “Student Voice” mean to you? If you think you have a good idea for an opinion piece, consider sending a pitch to NewsHour Extra’s Student Voice blog. The blog is full of powerful, original pieces by students. Write Victoria Pasquantonio at vpasquantonio@newshour.org. We’d love to hear from you!


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