OUR OPINION: Review storm prep ahead of season

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Daily Journal’s year-in-review articles in Sunday’s edition provided powerfully graphic reminders of the killer tornadoes that swept across our region in late April, killing more than 20 people and laying waste to virtually the whole town of Smithville, with other major damage elswhere.
The Smithville storm was rated an EF-5, the most powerful on the scale used by the National Weather Service to measure a storm’s power and speed. Storms of similar power killed more than 350 people in all on April 27 in several Southern states. The pain, damage and costs won’t soon be forgotten.
Recovery continues at all the sites of major damage, and assistance has been provided by the federal and state emergency management agencies plus scores of private-sector relief organizations and business coalitions raising recovery funds, food, clothing and other items to help normalize life.
In some instances official steps have been taken to upgrade early warning systems to enable widespread alerts delivered by telephone directly to homes and businesses in storms’ paths.
The earliest warnings, however, will not help if people do not heed them with appropriate action to find shelter and encourage others to quickly respond.
Once a warning is known, make the decision to seek shelter before the storm arrives because it could be the most important decision a person will ever make.
Tornadoes happen in all 50 states, but no other area is more favorable to their formation than the continental plains and Gulf Coast states during April, May and June.
Experts advise not fleeing in a vehicle, but to seek shelter in a sturdy building in a small fully enclosed area.
Experts also advise heeding sounds usually associated with tornados and strong thunderstorms: Tornado winds may produce a loud roar similar to a train or airplane. Thunderstorms can also produce violent straight-line winds which produce a similar sound, so if any unusual roar is heard during threatening weather, take cover immediately, experts caution.
Although most tornadoes occur during the mid-afternoon or early evening ( 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.), they can occur at any time.
“We’ve been through it, folks,” Mayor Gregg Kennedy said during a press conference held the day after Smithville’s 3:30 p.m. tornado. “Our town is flat … To see what happened in 10 seconds – it was gone. I looked out, and it was gone.”
No technology can stop a tornado, and southern weather patterns favor having them every year, so the only reasonable defense is to remain alert and do what’s necessary when a warning is issued.