Severe weather still demands our full attention

Monday, March 5, 2018

More than 1.5 million homes were out of power in the Northeast this weekend as a powerful nor’easter caused flooding and wind damage from Virginia to Maine, leaving at least five people dead from falling trees.

A snowboarder was killed by an avalanche in California, and northeast Nebraska was in a blizzard warning today.

A tornado that tore through Offutt Air Force Base last summer did nearly $20 million in damage, including the roofs of 32 buildings and 10 military planes, including two E-4B “doomsday” planes built to serve as aerial command posts in the event of a catastrophic national emergency.

Northwest Nebraska is in a blizzard warning, and while Southwest Nebraska wasn’t expecting any snow, be we are in a Red Flag warning today, with extremely low humidity and winds gusting to 65 creating dangerous fire conditions throughout the region.

Nebraskans have grown up with stories of the “school children’s blizzard” in January 1888, when a blizzard rolled in following an unseasonably warm morning. Some 235 people, many of them children in one-room schoolhouses, perished in the storm.

While it’s clear modern technology can’t protect us entirely from the wrath of Mother Nature, we are blessed with a wide variety of ways to receive accurate information about approaching dangers like blizzards.

This week, the National Weather Service office in Goodland, Kan., is coordinating the Tri-State Severe Weather Awareness Week, with emphasis on various aspects of weather safety throughout the week.

Today’s emphasis is communications, which, while greatly improved, still demands attention from the general public.

While social media is a useful tool, make sure you’re reading a current official post from the National Weather Service, and not some outdated fake news posting.

By the same token, make sure you tune in to a live local broadcast station when weather threatens, rather than an internet streaming service.

Numerous smartphone weather apps have notifications available, and while the National Weather Service does not have an app, users can link a mobile site (mobile.weather.gov) as an icon on their homescreen.

Local emergency management officials can also implement emergency text and phone notifications, and while warning sirens are scattered through communities, they are designed for outdoor warnings only.

Other safety tips throughout the week include tornadoes and tornado safety, hail, downburst winds, thunderstorm and lightning safety and flood and flash flood safety.

Take some time to plan for severe weather, and check with neighbors who might need shelter or help in case bad weather is approaching.

That information and much more is available at the National Weather Service website, http://bit.ly/2H4tS8i

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