In 2013, Samuel Cifuentes, Yolanda Santos, and their children sheltered from a tornado in a drainage ditch near El Reno, Oklahoma, but the Spanish-speaking family never received warnings about the risk of severe flash floods. The entire family drowned. The lack of non-English communications during weather-related disasters leads to increased death and tragedy, though efforts are being made to address the problem, the Washington Post reports. While some federal alert systems support Spanish text, FEMA emergency alerts are still sent only in English, neglecting 43 million Spanish speakers.
John Morales, the first bilingual degreed meteorologist in the United States, who now works at WTVJ in Miami and previously worked at Univision and Telemundo, recalled how competing stations scrambled to keep up after he was able to guide the Latino-heavy community though Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In 2019, the competition Morales sparked may have saved a life. A Dallas small business owner told Univision Channel 23 meteorologist Nelly Carreño he hadn’t had time to flee a tornado outbreak, “but I remembered you once told us to get under the bed” and said doing so likely saved his life. “That’s why we’re in this business,” Chis Peña, senior vice president for news and local media at Univision, told the Washington Post. (Washington Post $)