Saturday, March 31, 2012

Have a Weather Plan Wherever You Are

News to Know

Story by Kelly Caldwell

On April 27, 2011, the landscape of Alabama forever changed when 62 tornadoes ravaged the state in a 24-hour period. More than 250 people lost their lives, and the state as a whole mourned the devastating losses.

Luckily for Randolph County, we suffered no physical damage to our property, but we did join in the relief effort.

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Donnie Knight, Randolph County EMA director, said. “And, I probably won't, at least of this magnitude, again.”

Numerous lessons were learned from a year ago, but most important is for people to have a weather plan.

“Technology has advanced so much from when we started doing this and so many lives were saved that day because of the advanced warning,” Knight said. “We knew days in advance to prepare for these storms.”

A few years ago when a severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning was issued, the whole county would be alerted. Now, however, the warnings are more precise.

“The polygons are very specific,” Knight said. “And, our outdoor warning system can match.”

However, Knight cautions not to rely solely on the outdoor warning system.

“The outdoor warning system is just that, meant for people outside,” he said. “You can't hear it indoors most of the time and you should have an alternative to rely on in your home.”

Weather radios are preferred for indoors and for smart phones there are applications available.

“The alerts don't help if you can't hear them,” Knight said. “We also send the weather alerts out over our radio frequencies and to the local radio station. We try to inform as many people as possible.”

The Alabama tornado season hits its peak from March to May, and residents should remain on alert.

“When we get a severe weather warning, you should move to the lowest level of your home and be in the most interior room available,” Knight said. “But you should also have necessities with you because if a big one hits, you may be stuck there for a while.”

Knight suggests having bottled water and food in your safe place, and  when severe weather is predicted to charge cell phones as well as make sure you have batteries for flashlights and radios.

“There is nothing worse than having a flashlight or radio that doesn't work because the batteries are dead,” Knight said.

Also, he strongly urged that a person living in a mobile home should leave well before the storm hits.

“I have seen the devastation done to mobile homes when tornadoes hit,” Knight said. “You don't want to take your chances with that.”

Also with the large number of weekend home owners in the area, Knight suggests to have a weather plan for both places.

“I know we have a lot of visitors to the area that may not know how to get information,” he said. “Make sure you have a plan for your second home as well because you don't want to be caught off guard.”

In Randolph County, local weather alerts are broadcast over Eagle 102.3 and in Clay County on Alabama 100.7.


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