MOORE, Okla. - By lunchtime Monday, storm spotters knew something terrible could happen.
Heartache would be in this storm's path. There would be no way around it.
The depth of grief and the breath of destruction would be determined later, for agonizing days and weeks later. Make no mistake, those in the risk areas were told, a major, devastating event was on the horizon.
Souls and treasure would be lost. And, yes, 24 people -- including nine children -- died when a twister struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
But even as we grieve, from near and far, for those we loved and those we never met, we know that advances in weather forecasting still saved lives Monday. Earlier, ravaging storms taught us how to better predict the twists and turns of Mother Nature and how to somewhat anticipate her seemingly indiscriminate terror.
Even a few minutes' warning saved lives.
Technological advances allowed a country to witness a storm as it erased neighborhoods and lifted heavy objects beyond Earth's grasp. From a television station's helicopter windows, we watched a tornado two miles wide scoop up lifetimes and eventually toss them 250 miles upwind. Moments later, we watched dazed and wounded survivors climb out of rubble and scattered vehicles, defying logic. How could anyone have survived that?
Inhabitants of this country's storm-weary areas live in a paradox. Increasingly populous towns such as Moore -- with roughly 55,000 people, nearly 15,000 more than after a deadly 1999 tornado -- and booming metropolises such as Oklahoma City place more individuals in a storm's path. In a country of more than 300 million, storms touch more lives. A century ago, 225 people called Moore home. A storm of this size would have been witnessed mainly by wildlife.
And yet, weather-battered regions produce the wealth of knowledge that prepares us for the next storm. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more discerning group of experts than those who have ridden out a storm across the Plains and chosen to make that their lives' work. If storms like we saw Monday cannot be tamed, we at least can learn to understand them.
We may never, though, learn to accept the profound loss of life. Yet again, America mourns, especially for the youngsters taken by one of their biggest fears.
Even when we know the darkness is coming, we're never quite ready for what the morning brings.