America’s stormy weather clears a path for hope

It is important to remember that we have more in common than we often think

By Lucian K. Truscott IV


Published May 29, 2024 5:45AM (EDT)

People walk through a Bridgeland neighborhood as families begin cleaning up storm damage, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Cypress, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)
People walk through a Bridgeland neighborhood as families begin cleaning up storm damage, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Cypress, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

The news today is filled with photographs and stories about tornados that have blasted through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kentucky. At least 25 people have been killed and another round of storms was expected to hit Texas Tuesday evening. CNN is calling the weather this Spring “freakish.”

It's unknown if the record-breaking reports of severe weather over the Memorial Day weekend are a product of global warming, but after this Spring, that conclusion appears unavoidable. According to CNN, there were 622 reports of severe weather between Wyoming and New Hampshire on Sunday alone. The previous record was 565 reports of severe weather in one day, and that was on May 8, only three weeks ago.

CNN reports that there have been 14 tornado emergencies announced so far this year, with five over Memorial Day weekend alone. One tornado touched down in Oklahoma and stayed on the ground wreaking havoc and destruction for an hour. Tornado emergencies are issued by the National Weather Service only when a storm threatens severe property damage and loss of life. On average, about 12 tornado emergencies occur each year. With 14 on record already, this year promises to be a record-breaker when it comes to severe weather. 

You can’t prepare for storms like tornados. They don’t announce themselves in advance. When severe thunderstorms move in, tornados just drop from the sky and begin sucking up anything in their paths. The funnel clouds that drop from thunderheads appear white at first and only become dark from the debris in their lifting whirlwinds. They are terrible things to witness. A friend and I were about a quarter mile north of a tornado in Ohio that was moving east as I was riding a bicycle cross-country going west. They do sound like a freight train. If you’re as close as we were, you can actually hear pieces of metal and wood and other debris from damaged buildings banging against each other as they are swept up and then disgorged by the storm.

President Biden has called the governors of each of the states that were affected and promised any federal help they need. There is no news yet about what federal assistance has been requested, but there are plenty of pictures and news footage of local emergency services and neighbors pitching in to help search damaged homes for survivors and pick up the debris from the storm. The Red Cross will move into the affected areas and set up services, and if called on, FEMA will establish local headquarters where federal aid can be applied for and emergency assistance, including cash money, can be dispensed.

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The news every day is filled with stories of the severe partisan divide in this country’s politics. The divisions extend from political parties’ differences to the differences between rural and urban areas of the country. Some states have begun separating themselves from the rest of the country with the passage of severe laws against abortion that have wiped out the reproductive rights of women. Threats are emerging to the rights of LGBTQ people in the same states that have banned abortion and taken steps to ban the teaching of the racial history of the country. The divide between those who are now known as MAGA adherents and citizens who hew to a centrist or liberal political outlook is described as so wide that it often seems as if they speak a different language. When it comes to what news the two sides consume, not only the language is different, but the information is. Disinformation and the mass spreading of lies has become an industry as large as the entertainment business.

But if you watch the news during a season of severe weather as bad as this Spring, it is clear that storms bring us together. Tornados and other severe storms like hurricanes don’t distinguish between Democrats and Republicans. Disaster brings help, not political division. Fire departments and emergency services don’t ask your political party when they are called. 

Matthew Yglesias has a good column on his “Slow Boring” Substack Monday called “Negativity is [still] making everyone miserable.” In the column, he points out trends that are actually much better than many people perceive them, including the homicide rate, which is down significantly. Deaths from auto accidents have declined two years in a row; COVID deaths are down; life expectancy is up; global poverty is down significantly, even as the population has “surged,” according to figures Yglesias quoted from Our World in Data.

I would add that although we have troops in harms way, and there have been deaths from individual attacks on U.S. forces in areas of conflict around the world, we are not engaged in any active shooting wars that are producing steady numbers of military casualties the way our misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did for decades.

If your news diet consists mostly of domestic politics and scandals bedeviling both political parties – albeit one party more than the other – it’s easy to settle into an “all is lost” or “it will never get better” attitude. Our political news is depressing.  The challenges we face as a country that is divided against itself can seem overwhelming.

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But I’m here to tell you that all is not lost. 

What we need as a people, and badly as the Democratic Party, is a more positive attitude. The other political party is mired in the doom and gloom of their Maximum Leader, whose firehose of daily negativity and grievance and lies now defines the Republican Party. Those who regularly consume the steady diet of that man and his puppets in Congress and in red states dominated by that party live in a universe of bottomless depression and anxiety.

I contend that most people don’t want to be depressed and angry all the time. They want to be proud of the country they live in. This Memorial Day, when we gave thanks for the sacrifice of members of our military who have given their lives to defend our liberties, it was a reminder that we can be proud of them at the same time we are sad for the sacrifice of their lives.  As we recover from the tornados of this weekend and more that will surely come, we can be proud of the way communities come together to help people in need, no matter their political leanings.

Some of us are Democrats, some of us are Republicans, and some of us are Independents. We believe differently, we live different lives in different areas of the country, but in the end, blood flows through all our veins and we share the same struggles brought upon us by disease and disaster and personal tragedy.

It is important to remember that we have more in common than we often think. We can get through this. We can pitch in and help each other when the need arises, as it has across the country this Memorial Day weekend. We can vote. We can win. We’ve got this.

By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. You can read his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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