The Great Santa Ana Wind Storm of 2011
At one point during the Santa Ana wind storm, on the front lawn of the group home we maintain adjacent to the main campus, the towering tree came roaring down. Fortunately, the tree fell away from the structure, but never-the-less rekindled the trauma for one of our residents, who had survived the Joplin Missouri tornado earlier this year. He like many of the residents at Hillsides were frightened by the ferocious winds and awed by the display of force that brought three trees down, buried three cars in debris and left the campus without power for nearly 24 hours.
As I walked the campus the day of the storm, I was impressed by the resourcefulness of our staff who adjusted their routines, stayed focused on the residents and pitched in to keep us all safe and operating well. In spite of the inconveniences, our residents were in good spirits, relieved that the storm was over and grateful for not attending school that day. But in subsequent days as things return to normal, an increasing number of residents have acted on their anxieties triggered by the trauma of living through such a powerful storm.
Last week’s storm confirmed for all of us how vulnerable we are in the face of the overwhelming forces of nature. For our residents already suffering form childhood traumas such an experience can be overwhelming. So, in addition to clearing debris and accommodating the inconveniences brought on by a power outage, the staff remained focused on reassuring our residents that they were safe and could count on us to help them deal with their fears and anxieties.
In a sense the storm was not only a test of our disaster plan, but more importantly, our resourcefulness to effectively address a very challenging situation while never losing sight of the needs of the children we serve. To all the staff who braved the state of emergency to make their way to work, thank you. To the maintenance staff who marshaled the efforts to clear debris and restore power and good order, thank you. To the food service personnel who kept residents and staff alike fed in the midst of discomfort, thank you. To our community of supporters who have reached out to us in concern with offers of assistance, thank you. Together we got through the storm relatively unscathed and will recall to another generation how we survived the great Santa Ana wind storm of 2011.