Hans Schoff – Business Builder & Entrepeneur



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160+ Alabama Tornadoes Later – The Experience I’ll be Telling My Grandkids About Someday (But It’s Not Why You Think)

April 27th, 2011: one of the most dangerous, most devastating days ever for the state of Alabama, in terms of tornadoes. 161 tornadoes as of the creation of this article – one just to the northwest of us which has been rated an EF-5, the most devastating of tornadoes possible – with wind speeds of around 200 mph, as wide as a mile in width in some areas with a 100 mile path of destruction…

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NOTE: The following article contains some “Food For Thought” based on my experience and thoughts that ran through my head during this terrible crisis.  I will be expanding on some of these thoughts in future posts as they relate to creating wealth in these turbulent times, albeit a different type of scenario, and a different type of plan…

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April 27, 2011 TornadoesApril 27th, 2011 was a horrible day for Alabama as the death count continues to rise and the damage continues to be surveyed.  Power is still out in the city of Huntsville days after the storms hit – a complete blackout in fact for the majority of the top 100 miles of the state – which isn’t expected to be remedied for 4-5 days at the earliest.  Curfew is in effect for the city of Huntsville, the city in closest proximity to the majority of the tornadoes, with utter destruction and near elimination of some of the surrounding smaller towns.  A horrible atrocity; we are fortunate and blessed to have been spared, virtually unscathed other than the inconvenience of no electricity.

In the aftermath, many people are left shocked, sad, depressed, angry, or frustrated.  Yet now that the storms have passed, the calm after the storms seems to have arrived for most…

It is now 11pm the day after on a Thursday night, a time of day I normally still have many millions of thoughts running through my head, tasks to complete… still very much “on GO.”  It’s a busy world – 24/7 it seems at times – as the internet never shuts down, lights and computers can run through the night, emails stream in around the clock, along with texts, emails, tweets, facebook updates, you name it!  It can be hard to shut off, hard to unwind, and even when we attempt to we still usually turn to some electronic form of entertainment, be it tv/cable/satellite/DVD/film, video games, facebook, twitter, iphone applications, etc…

Yet, on THIS Thursday night, in the same city, in the same house, at the same time of night in the middle of what would normally be a busy business week, there’s an unfamiliar yet very welcoming feel to it all.  There is no hustle and bustle, no distractions, no movement, no sounds, no nothing – just peace and quiet.  Wow!

I’m sitting in my hot (now warm) tub, drinking a cool (no longer cold) beer, looking up at the sky as that’s the only place there’s any light at all – and boy is it bright! So many stars I can’t even make out the big dipper, Orion’s belt or any other constellation, but I did also see several shooting stars!  I don’t think I had seen this many stars, especially at this low elevation, since camping in the mountains at over a mile and a half high near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevadas – and this is from my backyard in the city! …

The incredible contrast definitely makes me take notice and gives me pause.  What a blessing! Several thoughts are running (or rather walking at a comfortable, leisurely, fun pace) through my head.  How truly incredible!

As great as all our technology is – as convenient and fast that electricity and cheap energy has made our lives – there’s definitely something to be said for peace and quiet!  What a once in a lifetime (or at least a very rare event – records couldn’t be found for the last time ALL of Northern Alabama or even Huntsville has been without power all at the same time) to be able to experience such an awesome experience.

Power Pylon Damage

A scene from the new Transformers movie? No, this is the damage caused by an EF-5 tornado on Apr 27, 2011 near Huntsville, AL (The Huntsville Times/Glenn Baeske)

I mean, when was the last time you ever saw your entire city pitch dark as if all the buildings and houses and stores and restarants had not yet been built…?  It feels like a time machine, going back in time a hundred years to experience what life must have been like before electricity and the following technology spread throughout the cities.  A priceless experience as to my knowledge no one has been able to create a time machine at any cost to be able to go back in time to see and feel what it was like a hundred years ago.

Although I’m only 30, I feel like an old timer, imagining the day I could tell my grand kids of what it was like when Huntsville, a city with a metro population approaching half a million people, was completely dark with no electricity, no tv, no internet, no electricity!

With all the headlines in the media, all the problems and obstacles our country and our world is facing today and the many challenges not yet upon us that may be lurking just down the road, this experience made me come to realize that we can survive!

Better yet, we can still thrive! Who would have thought this could ever happen?  Some thousands of square miles of city – a space and rocket city no less – internet-less, tv-less, powerless?

Yes, there is still lots of fear, lots of angst, lots of pain, and lots of frustration.  This experience makes me appreciate the incredible technology that we do have today and how powerful it really is…

Over the years, tornado-sensing and following technology has come a long way.  It’s incredible the information they can provide about an incoming storm, and the technology they have to alert people.  From live streaming tv broadcasts showing the storm’s projected paths to particular communiites and even streets to the minute; to radio broadcasts, air-raid-like blaring sirens triggered by the national weather service by the county based on dangerous approaching storms; to internet alerts, emails, texts, tweets and facebook – the technology is really incredible.

Yet still, the last wave of storms for the day were so strong and plentiful that they eventually managed to not only cripple powerlines and high-voltage steel pylons to knock out the power, but also the radar sensing antenas and sirens so that essentially the entire city was blind.  We were all so accustomed to seeing the images on the screen, knowing when and where the brunt of the storm would hit that when the power went out and even the radio stations didn’t know where the tordnados were, people panicked!

The weather channel’s Jim Cantore got on the phone and began calling stations around the city to let people know where the storms were and when.  Luckily, smart phones like iphones with internet access were able to access facebook and also get the latest updates from the news stations even while the power, tv, internet and phone lines were out.

Incredible how powerful and lifesaving facebook was for so many people. You could feel the fear and anxiousness people had through their comments as everyone came together through facebook messages and comments to communicate centrally where to go, what to do, what was happening, what the authorities were doing, updates on food, water, generators, batteries, gasoline, etc.  What an incredible tool and thank goodness for that.  You can understand now why people even in poor countries who may not even have electricity in their homes yet they may have a smart phone – a virual gateway to the rest of the world, a survival mechanism, and communication tool.

What I’ve Learned From This Experience

Through this experience, I am so grateful and blessed that we have such technology available at our disposal, that even in the presence of such disaster and tragedy, through systemic failure after systemic failure, that still one system remained intact to help keep people in touch and in communication which from reading many of the facebook comments on the news channels pages, I know saved people’s lives!  That is powerful!

And as remarkable and inspiring as this story may be, I am also made aware of our dependence on electricity and gasoline. Without it, and more specifically without it’s normal and expected availability and supply, people don’t know what to do; they are scared, frustrated and angry rather than counting themselves lucky to be spared from the tragedy, lucky to be alive, house intact, just a minor inconvenience in comparison!

This gave me a glimpse into the future, to when it appears there is more and more likelihood of some kind of event triggering a similar result that will leave some or many or even all of us without power or gasoline for some short or extended period of time, and likely not just once, but many different times…

If this were to happen across the country, where it is not possible to ship in food, water, batteries, manpower, medical supplies – what would happen? We are definitely not prepared for such an event to happen once, let alone multiple times for any length of time…

This event is a wake-up call.

No longer can we take our technology and advanced way of life for granted.

No longer can we assume that we can always plug in our computer or cell phone and recharge it’s battery, or pull up to a gas station and be able to fill our tank, or go to the bank if we need to pull out cash to pay for this gas, or food, or water…

We need to start thinking ahead, to start planning ahead.

Are you prepared?   What would you do?  Do you have a contingency plan?

Perhaps it won’t happen, hopefully it won’t.  But if it does, would you rather be prepared so you can not only survive but thrive as well?  Or do you take the chance and hope that everything continues to work perfectly as we have been so lucky to experience for the last several decades?

Is it worth the risk?  What’s the small price to pay to be prepared?

Experiencing such an event myself currently firsthand, let me tell you, it is worth the price to be prepared.  Let’s hope for the best, but plan otherwise, just in case…  And with that, my laptop is about to die.  Gotta get to the car to plug it in.  Enjoy your electricity and flowing gasoline in the meantime…

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Posted by on April 29, 2011.

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10 Responses

  1. Wow, thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights Hans. For all of the wonders of our modern age, Mother Nature reminds us on a regular basis who is really in charge. While I’ve never personally been in an area that suffered tornadoes, I have been through a couple of pretty serious earthquakes and aftermath of a couple of tsunamis – and yes, you are so right, we do manage to survive … with a little help from our friends.

    by Marquita Herald on May 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

  2. Marquita, you’re right! We have become so used to cheap energy and easy living that we forget about the other more powerful forces out there (call it God, nature, whatever you like…).

    I think people forget that electricity doesn’t come from the outlet – it comes from power plants; water doesn’t come from the tap – it gets piped in from wells and water treatment plants along rivers, etc; gas doesn’t come from gas stations – it has to be drilled, transported, refined and trucked in…

    We forget what it takes to create all these things, what it takes to run and operate this great, convenient and relatively easy-living society we have today. Sometimes it takes a wakeup call or reality check of an uncomfortably large proportion to get our attention and make us realize what we take for granted and what is important in our lives…

    Thanks for your comment! ~Hans

    by Hans Schoff on May 25, 2011 at 3:28 am

  3. Wow. This is a great post. I agree with Marquita. It really shows you who is in charge. We live out in the sticks and we often have the electric out. Trees fall on power lines during storms. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a whole city out.

    by Melodie Kantner on May 25, 2011 at 6:50 am

  4. Hey Melodie, it was quite something! And as smart and powerful and creative as we humans are, we still require electricity, water, food, gasoline and other essentials to maintain our “normal” way of life. Most people take these things for granted… until they are not available… Thanks for your comments.

    by Hans Schoff on May 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm

  5. Hi Hans,
    I think all of the disasters are the wake up call for everyone to be more aware about their existence. And that is the prove of the power of the nature. We couldn’t avoid and deny it. And thanks God, many technologies have been invented to make some warnings of the upcoming disaster and it could reduce the victims and loss.

    by Andrew Walker on May 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm

  6. A wakeup call it was. Yet, just a month later and we see the same type of devastation stretching from Texas to Illinois. Hopefully these people will have been more prepared than many were here, having learned from what happened here. Community is also very important, because even if you were prepared and lost your house, what then? You then have to rely on your community. We all need to begin thinking more ahead, planning for the future, planning to live a long, healthy, financially stable and happy life, no matter what comes our way. Hoping things will always stay the same is no plan at all.

    by Hans Schoff on May 27, 2011 at 5:53 pm

  7. Yes you are absolutely right that saving people’s life is most powerfull action and thank to latest means of communication which help people to contact each other.

    I have seen tornado in the TV. These are really killing disaster. God help us and mercy us.

    by Alphonso@Company News Releases on Jun 15, 2011 at 2:50 am

  8. Hey Alphonso, technology really has come a long way. Who would have thought 20 years ago when cell phones started to to hit the US market that they’d evolve the way they have today, and how a cell phone can relay so much valuable and life saving info. Gotta have one these days! Thanks for your comments.

    by Hans Schoff on Jun 23, 2011 at 2:54 am

  9. That is just insane how many tornadoes there were and the severity of them. It’s a reminder to me just how fragile life is and how quickly things can change.

    by Becky@Mold Removal Los Angeles on Dec 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

  10. YES! it is worth the price to be prepared! We will never know when the time comes when anything could happen. When it comes to weather? it is unpredictable! Appreciate Life because we may never know when a disaster may hit us. Let us all be prepared!

    by Jordan@Disaster Preparedness Checklist on May 22, 2013 at 9:02 pm

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