Ten years ago, I would have found this study interesting mostly for the potential it has to help scientists understand the dynamics of a severe storm system. (Imagine a tornado striking a facility containing toxic or radioactive substances and needing to know where to evacuate and/or warn people who live downstream.) Since "crossing over" into the role of a family historian, I have developed a new appreciation for the destructive potential of Mother Nature. Yes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires cause terrible damage to buildings and infrastructure, but what about the family heirlooms INSIDE those buildings? Photo albums, birth certificates, church sacrament and education records, newspaper clippings, letters, and diaries all help tell the stories of our ancestors and will someday help tell OUR stories. When items such as these are picked up by violent atmospheric winds or damaged beyond repair in a flood or wildfire, they are likely gone forever and so is a part of our families' histories.
Unlike our ancestors, we are fortunate today to have the option of digitization when it comes to photos and any sort of paper-based records. But how many of us actually do it? Not only that, but once the information is scanned onto a computer, how many of us save it in multiple places - on a separate 'cloud' drive or on a CD or external hard drive that is stored at a location AWAY from our place of residence? If you are, like me, into preserving your family's memories, you are probably likely to take these precautions, but the average person usually does not, and when nature strikes, generations of memories may be lost. We also need to continue to support our libraries in their efforts to digitize historical records, because, unfortunately, they suffer from the effects of natural disasters just as much as the rest of society.
(By the way, the image above is the front page of the Chicago Herald Examiner from March 20, 1925. On March 18, 1925, an exceptionally strong and long-lived tornado (or a continuous series of strong tornadoes - it is still debated), completely destroyed several towns in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, killing 695 people and injuring over 2,000. It is known as the Tri-State Tornado and, to this day, remains the deadliest tornado in our nation's history.)