Make personal safety top priority in tornado season

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Too many residents of tornado alley take pride in flaunting the danger of summer storms, posing for wedding pictures in front of tornadoes and going out side or even getting behind the wheel of their cars to get a better look whenever one approaches.

Such activities are best left to the pro’s, as illustrated by the tragic death of three storm spotters Tuesday in West Texas.

Two were under contract with the Weather Chanel and the third was also a professional storm chaser.

Possibly with his eye on the sky or his radar display rather than on the road, one of the drivers ran a stop sign and collided with the other storm chasing unit, the collision so severe authorities were unsure which victims were in which vehicle.

There’s a right way to keep an eye on the sky, and if you hurry, there’s a special session tonight at Heritage Senior Center to learn what to look for.

The Red Willow County Sheriff’s office is hosting a storm spotter class at 6:30 p.m. presented by the National Weather Service.

It’s part of Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness Week, which included a test of tornado sirens at 10 a.m. today.

For some reason, one of the most confusing things about tornadoes is the difference between a watch and a warning.

For the record, a Tornado Watch means a tornado is possible, be prepared. Weather conditions favor thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes.

A Tornado Warning means seek shelter immediately. A tornado is on its way.

Perhaps different terminology is needed to make it clearer.

But now that you’re clear on the difference, check the forecast regularly to see if you’re at risk for tornadoes. Listen to local news, check mccookgazette.com online or your NOAA Weather Radio.

Sign up for text notifications. Red Willow County once offered such a service and may do so again sometime in the future, but there are other free commercial smartphone apps that will let you know when special weather statements have been issued.

McCook has tornado sirens, but they are intended as outdoor warning devices, not to be able to be heard indoors, where you should rely on other means.

Have a family plan ready that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. Pick a safe room in your home such as a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.

Practice a severe thunderstorm drill so everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know to go there when tornado warnings are issued, and don’t forget pets if time allows.

Discuss storm safety with your family and neighbors to see if there are ways you can help each other.

More storm safety information is available here.

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