Spring time in the Four States: Have a severe weather plan?

Spring time in the Four States: Have a severe weather plan?

Meteorologists are predicting severe storm chances Wednesday, so what are your plans to make sure you’ll be safe, should a disaster happen? Here are some of what may be reminders for some of you; but emergency managers say those reminders are worth every repetition.

Blue skies are the best times to plan for weather emergencies. Joplin Emergency Manager Keith Stammer says time gets more valuable when the outdoor tornado siren sounds.

“On average, we’re running about 10 minutes, from the time the sirens go off, to when we have first strike within the city,” says Stammer.

Stammer says most of the tornado warnings in our area in the past 10 years have happened during the evening hours, at or around 5:30. So it’s important to have a plan for shelter at home.

“I’ve never experienced severe weather, coming from California. But I’m sure I would find adequate shelter,” says Four State resident Diane Smith.

“Any time you can shelter where you are is of greater advantage than leaving your particular location, so that you can go to another location. The process, you’d have to cross open ground,” says Stammer.

…Open ground that could include flying debris.

But Stammer says if you live in a mobile home, or if you don’t live on the first floor of an apartment, it’s important to know about the closest community storm shelter.

“The city had put in a tornado shelter across the street from our house. And that’s our evacuation plan is, we meet in front of the yard,” says Four State resident Markus Chamberlin.

Don’t assume that storm shelter will open as soon as a tornado watch is issued.

“In our area, over the last 10 years, we average about 25 watches a year. Some 18 for severe thunderstorms, and 7 for tornadoes. Having said that, over the last 10 years, we have set off the sirens on average of 1.5 times a year. So there are a lot of watches out there, and very few times where it’s necessity to go ahead and set off the sirens,” says Stammer.

Also, FEMA may have given money to help build the community storm shelter, but the government agency doesn’t dictate how the shelter is operated.

Stammer says there’s no reason to panic or worry about severe weather. Just have a plan. It all goes back to the saying: Knowledge is power.

If you’re new to your neighborhood, it’s a good idea to call the nearest police station for a list of some community storm shelters. But again, Joplin’s emergency manager says an in-home shelter is the best.