Severe weather can strike any month of the year. Preparing for it can make those stressful times more manageable. K R P S’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro has more.
If you reside in the 4-States, you know the unmistakable sound of a tornado siren, a reminder also that it’s Severe Weather Preparedness Week. A time to plan for the severe weather that will likely hit the area this spring. Also, this year, the ten-year remembrance of one of the deadliest tornadoes in US history, on May 22nd, 2011, in Joplin that claimed 161 lives.
John Blake, a team leader with Ozark Center, the local Show-Me-Hope provider, works with residents to prepare for severe weather and cope with the aftermath. According to John, pack and prepare food, water, and clothing, also prepare for the possible destruction a tornado or flooding can bring.
“And you would want something in case you have some rough terrain to go through, like the tornado in 2011. People realized that a hard-hat would have been helpful for them during that time.”
With the severe weather that we have year-round, government agencies and nonprofits work to promote the need for residents to prepare for anything. From sub-freezing temperatures and snow to straight-line winds, and tornados, and devastating floods. When thinking about storm preparation, according to John, it’s as easy as 1,2,3.
“One is, make a plan. Two is, prepare a kit. And three is, listen for information.”
Make a plan where you and your family are going to take shelter. Prepare a kit with at least three days of supplies. And monitor updates from the National Weather Service. John warns if you don’t respect the weather and think a storm will never hit you, think again.
“I would just like to stress that preparedness does bring peace of mind. So if you’re, if you feel like you’ve gone through it and you’re gonna survive another one, I would say that you might want to rethink that but also, why wouldn’t you want to be prepared for your own peace of mind if that does happen?”
Steve Runnels is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Springfield, Missouri, a position he’s held since 1995. Steve and John Blake of Ozark Center agree that preparedness is key during storm season.
“We know for the public to respond to our warnings that they have to be prepared. They have to receive the warnings, they have to understand and respond. So annually, the National Weather Service conducts a severe weather awareness week to help with their preparedness.”
In addition to knowing where you’re going to go in the event of severe weather and having your kit ready, Steve says it’s also essential to know the difference between severe weather watches and warnings.
“Watches means conditions are favorable. On the other hand, warnings are that severe storms are imminent or in progress. So, having multiple ways of receiving that warning is pretty important.”
Steve explains that the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma tracks storm systems and issues watches for an area as many as 8 hours ahead of time, usually when there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
“But when the storms do start to form, the local offices such as Springfield, Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City will be utilizing doppler radars to monitor the development of severe thunderstorms. So watches give you time to prepare, warnings mean that a storm is imminent and people need to take precautions immediately.”
According to Steve, there is little connection between severe weather in the winter and whether storms will be worse in the spring. They aren’t looking at the sky to predict the severity of the spring storm season but at the ground.
“If soils do remain wetter than normal, earlier than normal. Then the thunderstorms that follow that produce heavy rainfall, yes there could be severe weather but what we meteorologists would be particularly concerned about is flooding, which is the number 1 killer when it comes to thunderstorms.”
While tornadoes and thunderstorms get the most attention, floods are the deadliest, responsible for the deaths of an average of 100 US residents every year over the past decade. Many deaths due to flooding occur when people attempt to drive through flooded streets.
This storm season, make a plan, prepare a kit, and stay informed.
For KRPS, I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro in Webb City