How, what, when to prepare for severe weather

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Compton: ‘People should be listening to the Springfield National Weather Service’

Weather while living in the midwest means a constant cycle of putting on a jacket, then taking it off and mowing the yard, then preparing for a freeze.

The four-states area is also well known for tornadoes, and local emergency management officials are hoping to prepare people for the coming tornado season.

David Compton, Barry County emergency management director, said although March through July has the highest possibility for tornados, they can happen every month of the year.

“It is something that people need to always be prepared for,” he said. “The most important thing is to know where your storm shelter is.”

Compton said people need to base this decision on where they can get in five minutes.

“If you can get to FEMA rated storm shelter in 5 minutes, that is best,” he said. “But if you can’t, you are safer to find the safest available location.”

Compton said that is going to be the lowest floor of the building, in an interior room and away from wind and exterior walls.

“Stay out of the hallways,” he said. “Protect your head and back with something that can absorb energy, like a mattress, and get as close to the floor as possible.”

Compton said traditionally, after a tornado, people need to be prepared to be without power, water and basic necessities for a period of time.

“You may even have to leave your home,” he said. “That is where the 72-hour bag comes into play. Each member of the family should have a bag packed and ready with supplies for 72 hours, like food, medicine, water, basic toiletries, a first aid kit, a good light source and radio.”

Compton said a wind-up or solar powered radio is best.

“People can go to for a list of things to pack,” he said. “Shelters are important to plan for.”

Compton said if people are planning to shelter at a church, they need to contact that church to find out if they open during storms and if they can get there.

“A lot of the churches with basements open for shelters, but you need to know for sure,” he said. “Also, many neighborhoods will have a neighbor with a shelter. If this is available in your neighborhood, you need to talk with your neighbor to see if you can share that shelter.”

Compton said there are two FEMA rated shelters in Cassville, one at the middle school and one at the high school that are always open during severe weather. Compton said the building automatically opens when a tornado warning is issued in the county, and sometimes, the buildings will be opened early.

“There is usually someone there to man the building while it is open,” he said. “In Purdy, there is the free-standing FEMA shelter that just opened this year.”

Compton said in Monett there are three public storm shelters at the school.

“One is at the elementary school, one at the middle school and one at the high school,” he said. “They are remotely operated by the city of Monett and are open during severe weather.”

Compton said there is a fourth shelter in Monett on County Road just west of Tyson, which is also remotely operated.

“Those FEMA shelter sizes are based on everyone who lives within five minutes of them,” he said. “Obviously, not everyone is going to go, so if you are in the area when the storm sirens go off, go to one of those shelters.”

Compton said it is important for people who do not have a storm shelter or live in an area outside of town to find the safest place they can that is available to them.

“I want to remind people that most deaths caused by severe weather in this area are not caused by tornados, but rather, flooding,” he said. “Turn around don’t drown. When water is rising rapidly do not try to drive through it. You need to get out of the way of the water as much as you need to get out of the way of the wind.”

Compton said the reason this is important is that severe weather is better monitored than ever before, but it is not uncommon for a storm to form or become very severe rapidly.

“We may have eyes on a storm for hours,” he said. “But, warning time can still be very short. That is why the 5-minute rule is important.”

Compton said although in this area it is joked about how quickly the weather can change, it is still important to understand the dangers of that as well.

“Southern Missouri may be the only place in the country where a brush hog has a snow plow attached to it,” he said. “It can go from a joke to life threatening quickly.”

Compton said people should also remember that outdoor warning sirens are just that, they are designed to warn people when they are outside.

“You should have a weather radio in your home and it should always be tuned to either the Cassville or Indian Point transmitters,” he said. “People should be listening to the Springfield National Weather Service.”

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