Language Barrier: How Spanish weather alerts could save lives

Erika Fierro and her mother Patricia Rojas prepare dinner at their home in Moore, Oklahoma. Their house was only miles away from the May 20, 2013 tornado's path.

Erika Fierro and her mother Patricia Rojas prepare dinner at their home in Moore, Oklahoma.
Their house was only miles away from the May 20, 2013 tornado’s path.

BY BRYCE MCELHANEY | THE NEW TERRITORY ISSUE 02

A phone lights up and begins vibrating against a desk and reads ‘Mother’ across its screen. Erika Fierro, 24, knows what the call is for, and has been expecting it most of the day.

Thick, dark clouds hovering low over the southwest skyline give her this expectation, and she answers the call without hesitation. Erika’s mother, Patricia Rojas, is asking the routine questions with a nervous tone: “A qué hora vuelve?,” and “De dónde viene?” which translates to “What time will it be here?” and “Where is it coming from?”

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in late April.

Almost everyone is Oklahoma knows what this means — it might be a long evening ahead of them. The two talk it over and make a plan for the evening, and make calls to other family members to advise them.

Erika tells her mother about the weather, what’s going on, and what time she will be home. Patricia sounds tense over the phone. They’ve done this countless times before, because Patricia relies on her daughter’s advice every year during tornado season.

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