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Storm damage is not a tourist attraction

Volunteers assist in Tupelo, Mississippi, following the April 28, 2014, tornadoes.
Volunteers assist in Tupelo, Mississippi, following the April 28, 2014, tornadoes.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

When disaster strikes, the remnants of people and places are destroyed or damaged. Lives are changed forever. Yet, there are those who find it entertaining to drive through these areas and view the aftermath of nature at its worst. There is a fine line between those who view destruction for research, media, or recovery assistance, and those who are just there to have what they call a good time being entertained by the destruction of those around them.

Sometimes, those responding to a disaster have to share the scene with those who have no reason to be there other than to be entertained. Storm chasers responding to a recent tornado warning could not even get close to the storm because the road was clogged with tourists and regular people trying their best to view the storm for themselves. Also, first responders and those giving disaster assistance in north Alabama after the April 27, 2011, tornadoes had to share the scene with a steady parade of people visiting the disaster areas as if they were a tourist attraction.

There may be legal grounds to argue against people jumping in the car and heading out to a disaster scene when they have no reason to be there. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, loitering is "to remain in an area when you do not have a particular reason to be there". In most municipalities, loitering is illegal. Also, there are laws in place against looting, that is the taking of items from a disaster scene. If a state of emergency has been declared, there may also be further restrictions in place, such as curfews or restrictions only allowing certain individuals to enter restricted areas.

Beyond legal reasons not to treat a disaster scene as a tourist attraction, there is also a factor of respect. If we have respect for the earth and those that live on it, we will not use a tragic event like a disaster as an event for our entertainment. For those who feel a need to have something to do, they can always volunteer to assist or organize a drive to collect donations of food, clothing, or other needed items.

Disasters cause people to lose everything that they have everyday. However, this time of trouble should not be a source of entertainment for people driving through the areas affected.

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