Tornado "hits" Casselton - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Tornado "hits" Casselton

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It's a disaster that can strike with only moments of warning -- so emergency workers in the red river valley are coming together to train for the worst, just in time for tornado season.

The Minn-Kota Red Cross, area hospitals and rescue crews and emergency preparedness civic leaders across the region are banding together to hone their skills in an all-week series of intensive training events.

It's all for National Severe Weather Awareness Week -- and it got started Monday. It's said that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but for "triage" workers at Essentia Hospital early Wednesday morning, the dividing line between life and death can get uncomfortably close, even in a mock disaster.

"These exercises are critical, because if you're not ready to do what we did today, you lose patients," says Dr. Fady Nasrallah.

Doctors, nurses and ambulance workers marshaled for a mass emergency response: 34 victims to Essentia, 34 to Sanford Health, to see how many they could "save." One woman moans and babbles from a leg "amputated" by the storm's ferocity, asking where her mother and dog are. Still other "victims" are too shocked to speak or share medical histories. 

"For my staff, we had nervous nurses, nervous doctors. We want survivors," says Essentia's Dr. Tim Mahoney. The trauma doctor is no stranger to disaster, having helped Fargo Mayor lead the city through three back to back floods in the springs of 2009, 2010 and 2011 as his deputy. But there's a real difference between disasters, as they can tell you over at the Civic Center.

After all, survivors present their own problems. At the mock emergency shelter Monday, city crews learned where to put healthy bodies, with nowhere else to go.

"When we have flooding, we have three months to prepare. With a tornado we have three minutes," says Leon Schlafmann, City Emergency Services Director. 

The biggest difference is truly in the time. And, in the moments after a major storm hits, there's no time for mistakes -- because even emergency workers can get rattled, when the emergency affects an entire city.

"There were glitches, I'd be lying if there weren't. But that's what this was all about," says Nasrallah.

The events ended Wednesday night with a "tornado touchdown," simulating what it would be like if the city of Casselton, ND were to be hit with an F4 or F5 tornado. Additional volunteer "victims" would be treated and organized by Red Cross, fire and paramedic workers, and the Red Cross will open a "shelter" and do a walk-through of the school, with a wrap-up of events and a review at 8:45 p.m.

For more information on how you can prepare yourself, your family and pets for a tornado emergency, including instructions on making a plan and getting a tornado kit, check out the link nearby.


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