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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Relief, and danger, in the remnants of Isaac

By Tom Warhover
August 31, 2012 | 6:28 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

Even some rain isn’t easy to capture.

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The drought of ’12 is mid-Mo’s biggest story of the summer. A wet weekend is most welcome. But is it OK for a newspaper to say “ahhhh” when people on the Gulf Coast are still suffering? When serious threats from tornadoes and flash floods threaten us here?

I wish it were a simple celebration. But Isaac was more complicated, and bittersweet.

By 8 a.m. Friday, Columbia was experiencing a steady rain with the promise of a good soaker for the next two days.

The rain on my face felt good. The 8-year-old in me wanted to don rubber boots and stomp in puddles; to slide down a good hill and feel the mud ooze between my toes; to look up and stick out my arms and tongue and scream just for the joy of screaming.

Instead, I stuck my head down and walked into the office.

That little kid came along. I had visions of photos across the digital pages of the Missourian: broken umbrellas in trash bins, wet-look hairdos, a Frisbee football game in the park and pedestrians leaping little streams at intersections.

At the morning news meeting, Missourian staff brainstormed ways to get at that sense of relief after a summer of cracked earth and stupefying heat.

Man about downtown John Clark stopped by. He suggested a photo of the whitewater falls in miniature from those big downspouts on businesses’ buildings. His photo caption: “ahhh.” One fashion conscious reporter sarcastically suggested a photo essay in honor of the few women on campus not wearing colorful and creative rubber boots – which then turned into a fun feature on the faux wellies. (True Wellingtons must be hunter green or black, right?)

The worst drought in 50 years and its demise — although a few inches won’t erase a summer of thirst for plants and streams — is a serious story. So, too, is Isaac.

The storm-turned-hurricane crept into the Gulf Shore and dawdled there. Power outages, downed limbs and flooded streets and homes left a trail of misery. People died. Then the hurricane-turned-storm carried strong threats of tornadoes as it entered the Show-Me State. Flash flood warnings were up.

Even Saturday’s football game reflects the storm’s duality. Southeastern Louisiana University canceled classes for most of the week because of the hurricane. MU’s football team didn’t miss a practice.

So the balancing act for the Missourian was to reflect the danger as well as the relief.

The nuns at Good Shepherd, where I spent the first four years of my formal education, would have been proud, because the 8-year-old was feeling plenty of guilt over happily splashing through those muddy pools along the roadside.

Tom

 

PS, a digital suite update: Last week, I told you about the Missourian’s switch to a membership plan, a 24-hour-free life cycle for news items, and a digital suite of apps to optimize reading on tablets and smart phones.

Unfortunately, technology problems with the system forced a delay in the launch. It looks like now that the coding issues won’t be resolved for several days yet.

The same system that powers columbiamissourian.com last week and last month continues, for now.