Warmer weather brings threat of severe storms

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Nevada Daily Mail

With the warmer temperatures, green grass, and the return of the songbirds, spring brings another less welcome presence to Vernon County, severe weather. While there is nothing that can be done to prevent severe weather events, with proper preparation, they are survivable.

On May 22, 2011 an EF-5 tornado devastated Joplin, Mo., leaving 158 people dead and injuring 1,150 others. Winds peaked at almost 250 miles per hour destroying 2,000 buildings. It was the third time Joplin had been struck by a tornado since 1971. Nevada could be next.

As demonstrated by the 1995 microburst, Vernon County and Nevada are not immune from Mother Nature. Vernon County is at risk from tornados, large hail, strong winds, heavy rain/flash flooding, and lightning.

According to Vernon County Emergency Management Director Dennis Kimrey, there are no public severe weather shelters in either Nevada or Vernon County. The alternative is for residents to shelter in place, either in a purpose-made storm shelter, or a secure area on the lowest floor of their home. Preparation does not end at home; businesses should have a plan as well. Residents and businesses can register their storm shelters, even if inside their homes, with the county so first responders know where to look for survivors. The link to register a shelter is at http://www.vernoncountyoem.org/.

Kimrey said that every home and business should have a weather alerting radio with a battery back-up, which are available at local retailers for as little as $15. Nevada, Sheldon, and Harwood are the only communities in Vernon County that currently have severe weather sirens. Severe weather can develop with little to no warning, so storm sirens, which are only activated for tornado warnings, should not be relied on as a primary means of receiving severe weather notifications.

In addition to a weather radio, Kimrey recommended checking the Situation Report on http://www.weather.gov/sgf/ each morning. There are also a number of apps for smart phones and other devices, which relay weather alerts from the National Weather Service. The Vernon County Office of Emergency Management website at http://www.vernoncountyoem.org/ also has links to severe weather information and instructions for reporting weather related damage.

The National Weather Service lists three simple steps for severe weather preparation: Know Your Risk, Take Action, and Be A Force of Nature.

Know Your Risk: The National Weather Service recommends checking weather.gov each moving before leaving home. While tornados are not predictable, severe weather events can be anticipated. Knowing what is forecast for the day, and especially the early evening hours is crucial to being prepared.

Take Action: National Weather Service recommends creating an emergency supply kit to provide necessities for three or more days without power. Of vital importance is having a plan to stay in touch with family members not at home and a list of places to meet should you not be able to get home.

Be A Force of Nature: Share your weather-ready story on social media. Share pictures of your emergency supply kit, or let friends know how to reach you if severe weather strikes in your area.

The National Weather Service's Springfield office offers basic measures for reacting to severe weather events: tornado, take shelter in a sturdy structure; large hail, move indoors away from windows; strong winds, move indoors away from windows; heavy rain, avoid rising creeks and water-covered roads; lightning, move indoors if you hear thunder.

The Vernon County Office of Emergency Management can be reached at 417-667-8236 to report a tornado, large hail, damaging winds, flooded roads or a downed tree across a road.

"Downed lines wouldn't necessarily be a 911 call unless it was a live electrical line smoking or sparking or on a vehicle -- hanging low enough to cause an accident, etc." according to Western Missouri Dispatch director Tonia Davis, "911 calls should be used for situations that could put someone in imminent danger." She added that reporting a tornado was acceptable.

Davis stressed the people should not call 911 to find out weather conditions, or to ask what the sirens are for, to ask for road conditions, etc. Non-emergency calls to 911 or the dispatch center during periods of severe weather prevent dispatchers from handling true emergencies in a timely manner.

More information on preparing for severe weather can be found at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/ or http://stormaware.mo.gov/.

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