By Will McClure
Stamford students participated in the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Severe Weather Awareness Week last week as students observed proper safety measures during a drill on Wednesday, March 4. The NWS encouraged all residents, not just schools, to learn more about how to prepare in case of severe weather danger, such as deadly tornadoes. Hector Guerrero, Warning and Coordination Meteorologist for the NWS, was able to provide some information to Texas residents on how to stay informed and prepared for when severe weather strikes in the area.
The first thing that is suggested is for residents to have at least two ways to receive warnings automatically, as relying on sirens or television alerts alone are not enough to keep residents informed. The NWS says to not rely on sirens as they are primarily use “to warn those who are outdoors, and may not be loud enough to awaken you in the middle of the night.” It is suggested that residents can use a weather radio, especially in the middle of the night, to receive warning as the radio will emit a loud sound when a tornado warning is issued. It is also suggested that some communities and TV stations offer weather warning apps that provide timely warnings as the weather changes. The NWS suggests checking with the emergency management office or TV stations in the area to see what is available or one can search and use their favorite weather warning app.
The NWS also suggests that residents have a safety plan ahead of time in order to know what to do when severe weather strikes. The NWS suggests the safest place to be when severe weather strikes, such as deadly tornadoes, is in an approved underground storm shelter or in an above ground storm shelter. However, if neither of these are available, other places can be used, such as when school is in session. Students demonstrated the next safest place to be when a tornado is nearby by moving to the lowest floor of the home, school or business in an interior room such as a closet, hallway or bathroom. Individuals need to stay low to the ground and cover themselves with blankets, pillows and/or mattresses. For individuals living in mobile homes, it is strongly suggested that they abandon the home in search of a more substantial shelter. If none are available, lie flat in a ditch covering the head and neck. Residents can contact the NWS for more information on developing a safety plan.
Severe Weather Awareness Week also allows residents the opportunity to practice their safety plans, such as participating in the 16th Annual Tornado Drill for Schools that was held on March 4 at 10:00 am. The NWS encouraged all schools to participate in the drill and educate their students on the proper safety procedures. The NWS transmitted a special message about the drill, as well as some local radio and television stations, as to when the drill would commence. Students would then practice the proper safety techniques which could be life-saving, which was noted by the NWS after a drill in 2004.
“A tornado drill was conducted on March 3rd by many schools. Then on the following day, March 4th, a severe line of thunderstorms with tornadoes struck west central Texas and even hit a school and produced substantial damage. This drill proved extremely valuable and prepared many schools for this extreme severe weather event,” the NWS said. Students were encouraged to move to the area designated in the school’s tornado plan, avoiding places with wide-spanning roofs such as the auditorium and cafeteria. Students were then told to get down low with their head against the wall, using their arms to protect their head and neck. It is the hope of the NWS that these procedures will help prepare students in case of severe weather. Texas residents are encouraged to visit the NWS website for more information on other safety procedures."
For more information about Severe Weather Awarness and how an individual can prepare for when severe weather strikes, residents can call the NWS at 325-944-9445 or visit http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/severe.html and http://www.srh.noaa.gov/sjt/?n=svrwx_awareness. It is the hope of the NWS that residents stay informed for the future in case of severe weather in the hope that more lives can be saved.