Winter's still here, but tornado season approaching

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The forecast looks very much like February, with a chance of snow tonight and a better chance on Friday, but the news from Oklahoma sounds more like spring.

A cluster of tornadoes touched down across the state, killing at least eight and seriously injuring 14 people. With the search suspended overnight because of the number of downed power lines, it was possible the toll might climb after daybreak today.

Even for long-time Plains residents, the damage from a twister is frightening and awe-inspiring. A body shop and the vehicles it contained were twisted into a ball of steel, a wall collapsed at a Chuck E. Cheese, and in Texas, a semi was blown off the road.

We need to prepare for Friday's snow, but it's not too early to think about the next wave of adverse weather -- some preparations, like gathering an emergency kit, apply to both types of weather.

If you'd like to get more involved, the National Weather Service in Goodland and Red Willow County Emergency Management are conducting a storm spotter and safety class in McCook at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19, at the Heritage Senior Center, 1400 W. Fifth.

The class, intended for all age groups interested in High Plains severe weather, is conducted only once every year by NWS Meteorologists, so now is your chance to experience what promises to be fun and educational training in McCook. Not only will you learn about storms, you'll be trained to help keep your community safer.

This year's class will present basic spotter training during the first hour with advanced training during the second hour.

Other classes, all at 6:30 p.m. local time, are set for March 9 at the Prairie Developmental Center, 208 S. Fourth in Atwood, March 10 at the high school cafeteria, 100 South College in St. Francis, March 11 at the firehouse just south of Highway 34 in Stratton, March 16 at the high school distance learning room, 400 Ninth Ave. W in Benkelman, March 25 in the Gateway building, 1 Morgan drive in Oberlin.

For more information, contact the Goodland NWS at (785) 899-7119, or check the Web site at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gld/ under "Additional News Headlines" then "2009 Storm Spotter Training Schedule."

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