We’re not meteorologists or soothsayers, so we’re not going to speculate as to whether this year’s spring severe weather season will rival last year’s in intensity, destructiveness and loss of life.

Things have fired up early and quickly, though. A series of tornadoes in January and February killed 15 people. The March 2 brutal outbreak that ravaged the U.S. heartland killed at least 37 people.

Some folks who survived the storms physically may have lost everything they have materially. We’re sure the federal government and the states involved are marshaling their resources to help, but that can be a frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying process. Ask those who still are dealing with the wreckage of April 27, 2011.

Much cleanup and rebuilding ends up being done by volunteers — and that’s where “disaster junkies” come in.

The word “junkie” makes us flinch a bit because of its negative connotations, but those quoted in an Associated Press profile of the group expressed pride in the label. They pleaded guilty to being “addicted” to helping people in need, without desiring anything in return except personal satisfaction.

No one knows for sure how many “disaster junkies” there are, whether a few hundred or a few thousand, but they turn out when called and do whatever jobs are tossed their way, whether it’s cleaning up wreckage or rebuilding entire neighborhoods.

Because they’ve done it so much, they bring a level of expertise to disaster situations that well-meaning first-time volunteers lack. They don’t have to ask “how can I help?” — they know the answer.

We’ve often touted the concept of looking out for our neighbors. “Disaster junkies” aren’t just talking about it, they’re doing it.

— The Gadsden Times,

Alabama, March 5

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