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What to do when the storm hits PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 19 May 2017 09:43

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ELLY GRIMM

• Leader & Times



The spring and summer are upon the area, and with the season comes barbecues, beach trips and other fun associated with warmer weather. 

However, the warmer weather will also soon be bringing more severe weather incidents with it ranging from thunderstorms to tornadoes, or late spring snowstorms, as seen at the end of April. With all that in mind, Emergency Management Director Greg Standard said it is important for people to prepare.

“Certainly, there’s no real timetable for when severe weather will affect our county, tornadoes can come through any month of the year. But this is certainly a busy season we’re entering now, May and June are always the busiest times,” Standard said. “So with that in mind, it’s really important for people to know where they intend to shelter when severe weather affects their location. It’s not the time to figure out what you’re going to do when there’s only two minutes to think about it, so we really hope everyone has a plan for where they’re going to shelter, and they have supplies on hand so they can take care of themselves for a few days, like food, water, any medications, any important items. Those things should be set up in a go kit so people can grab them and go to shelter and then take care of themselves.” 

Standard also pointed out there are commercial shelters available for people to purchase and have that shelter at their homes or businesses, wherever it makes sense for them to be located. 

“There are a number of people in the county who have done so, and several businesses that have put them in, so that’s a positive step, making sure shelter’s available when it’s needed,” Standard said. “We’re asked all the time about public shelters, and there are no public shelters that are officially public shelters. If one of the city or county buildings or public buildings are open at the time of a severe weather incident, that may work, but it also may not end up being much better than your home, and if there’s an emergency, those folks may not be there to let you in. We also don’t want people getting in their cars and driving around to get to shelter, because that’s one of the least safest places to be. Shelters need to be close and easily accessible for that plan to work well.”

At this time, Standard said he is not aware of any discussions of public shelters being built. However, it is a conversation he said he is open to having. 

“To my knowledge, there’s not really any ongoing discussions about it. But some communities in the past that have operated them no longer operate them at this point in time,” Standard said. “And part of the issue is how do you ensure it gets opened? If you’ve got 150 people or so moving to that place and the person who was supposed to open it had car trouble or some other problem, it doesn’t get opened, and now there’s all those people in a parking lot. Also, who cleans it, who secures it, who’s in charge of all that. If it’s unlocked all the time, it could be a problem area. I do think there are some places here in town that have reasonably good shelters. If I had my preference, every home would have either a storm shelter or a safe room in the home where people could go, because that’s the very best place people could go. If we have the opportunity to pursue any projects where we can be of assistance with that, I would be very interested in that.”

And Emergency Management staff is also doing its fair share of preparations for any potential severe weather situations, Standard said, including inspections and repairs to outdoor sirens, among other work. 

“We test them monthly as well, but with this we have a factory-trained guy who comes out and does the checks and all that. He’s been here recently, he comes every spring to make sure all of that is in order,” Standard said. “We’re also replacing the backup generator on the NOAA weather transmitter so we can ensure we have power to that at all times. We also continue to work with our local weather spotters to make sure we’re getting good eyes on the ground and good reports back to the weather service and dispatch center so we can make good decisions about what type of warning to provide to the citizens. We’re in the middle of doing a lot of things, including replacing a generator at the EMS offices so that’ll help them stay operational, they are vital in the community.”

The fall and winter weather seasons bring their own challenges, including Winter Storm Jupiter earlier this year and other snow, but weather patterns through the summer and spring can be their own monsters, Standard said. 

“In November 2015, we had a F-3 tornado in Seward County, so again ... there’s not really hard lines of when those types of things will occur, but in our part of the world,” Standard said. “Typically, we need a substantial amount of convection heating to develop strong thunderstorms, we have to have the moisture there too, and those conditions happen to come together around May or June. Usually, more years than not, we have an ample supply of moisture coming off the gulf and we have enough heat to produce the convection to get those storms going.”

Emergency Management also partners with entities in the city and the county to help keep everyone safe, which is a great benefit as the monthly meetings produce safety plans and emergency plans for a time as such an emergency weather situation should occur. 

“The weather pattern we’re in at the present time, we’ve got a lot of moisture coming from the gulf, we’ve got a lot of fronts coming in from the north, so we’ve got hot and cold air,” Standard said. “We’ve got a lot of general heating expected. These conditions we’re experiencing today are expected for the next 30 days at least, and if we stay in that weather pattern, we’ll continue to see severe weather not only in our county but in Western Kansas overall.”

Overall, Standard said, the most important thing is for people to keep themselves safe. 

“We’ve got more than 20,000 people and about 150 emergency responders, so when things get really bad, it’s difficult to have enough people to help everyone. So the more people can do for themselves, the better, and the better their situation would be as well, so we’d like to see people be prepared,” Standard said. “We can provide people information through our office or through our web site, we’d be glad to work with anyone who may need some extra advice or information. We can’t control the weather, but we can control what happens afterward to help our people get back to normal as soon as possible. We’re all here to help each other, and I’m always proud of our emergency responders, they do an excellent job.”

 


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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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