First big storm ...

Three years ago Sunday, a memorable and tragic tornado outbreak struck several states, killing more than 200 persons alone in Alabama. So it is with a great deal of irony that the first major tornado outbreak this year occurred two days ago -- exactly three years after the 2011 outbreak.

The death toll from Sunday's storms was a lot less than on that tragic day of 2011. As of this writing, at least 18 lives were reported taken, primarily in Arkansas. In Vilonia, a suburb of Little Rock, nine persons who died lived on the same street, according to news reports. More than 100 persons were reported injured Sunday alone in the Arkansas tornado.

A great deal of time, effort and taxpayer money is spent on trying to prevent storm-related deaths. Around-the-clock forecasting by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., as well as 24/7 television coverage are part of these attempts. Unfortunately, no matter what preventative actions we try to take to avert disaster, the fact Mother Nature has a mind of its own means storm predicting remains an imperfect science.

About the best advice this time of the year is to be alert to rapid changes in the weather and be prepared to take cover at a moment's notice. It may save your life.


Drug-related bills

Drug abuse has become a wildfire in Ohio, spreading rapidly and consuming lives in the process. Local law enforcement agencies cannot battle it on their own. State officials need to do more.

A package of bills intended to do more against heroin and other opiates, including pain pills, has been approved by the state House of Representatives. It includes common-sense measures that could help.

Approved separately by the House the steps would, if enacted, include:

-- Tens of millions of dollars a year for centers that help opiate addicts recover.

-- Require that physicians who prescribe opiate drugs must review patients' prescription histories through a special state database.

-- Mandate that opiates cannot be prescribed for minors without consent from parents or guardians.

-- Establish procedures to curb diversion of opiate drugs from hospice-care facilities and programs.

There has been some criticism of the House plan. Much of it involves a proposal that new addition treatment programs be funded by reallocating much of the nearly $50 million already provided for county-level programs.

That may be a valid concern. Simply shifting addiction treatment money around adds nothing to the battle against illegal drugs. And, if it takes money from effective treatment initiatives and shifts it to less-capable ones, the move could be counterproductive.

Still, state representatives are on the right track with the anti-opiates package. State senators should look at it carefully, addressing whatever valid concerns there are, then forward the bills to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.

The (Warren, Ohio) Tribune Chronicle

Democratic primary

Edward FitzGerald is looking past the Democratic primary to the general election against Republican Gov. John Kasich. And it's just as well, because his primary challenger, Larry Ealy, 51, a former tow-truck driver from the Dayton area who said he's now living on $800 a month in disability, simply has no business being in the race.

It's too bad somebody with a realistic chance didn't emerge to challenge the 45-year-old FitzGerald. He could use the seasoning before close combat with Kasich begins.

FitzGerald is already trying to convince voters they are worse off after three-plus years of Kasich, and that the governor's election victory in 2010 was the result of a bad Ohio economy that FitzGerald believes was wrongly blamed on then-Gov. Ted Strickland, rather than on the international economic downturn.

FitzGerald, a family man with a boyish face, touts an impressive resume of civil service and elected office that includes stints as an FBI agent tackling organized crime and corruption in Chicago, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, a Lakewood councilman, the mayor of Lakewood and now Cuyahoga County's first executive.

FitzGerald gets our endorsement in the primary but the contest with Ealy isn't testing him or his tendency to get prickly when challenged.

Once FitzGerald and Sharen Swartz Neuhardt, his running mate for lieutenant governor (and, judging from the endorsement interview, cheerleader-in-chief), get past the May 6 primary, voters should get a much better idea of how he stacks up against Kasich. Early voting has begun.

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

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