Learn how to stay safe in storms

by Zach James

Imagine rummaging through the mess of what the small town of Parkersburg went through in May 2008.

A tornado tore through the Butler County town in what most thought had to be in little to no time. Residents had little warning according to some, and because of it, nine people tragically lost their lives while most of the town was left in shingles, branches and torn hearts…all because the residents had little time between the siren and the arrival of the storm.

Tornadoes are just one of many severe weather instances that can threaten our lives. Flooding and thunderstorms are also just as dangerous; the more people that can be aware of the storms, the better.

On March 20, The National Weather Service held a spotter training open to the public, informing those who were interested on how to become a trained storm spotter. Around 40 people came to the Indianola Activity Center to become a storm spotter.

At the event, meteorologists showed the crowd the differences between a spud cloud and a tornado, how to chase a tornado safely and properly and how to report anything a spotter sees, such as a tornado.

One of the main personnel at the training session was Troy Bass, Warren County’s Emergency Management Deputy Coordinator. He believes informing the public on how to track storms (while staying safe) is very important.

“Public education, especially when it comes to severe weather, is a must,” Bass said. “If we can get the public to plan ahead, to educate them on severe weather events and help prepare them for the worst and the best.”

Through being a part of the storm spotter team, informing people when and where storms are going is vital.

“There’s more people out there than there is of emergency responders, so they play a big role,” Bass said. “Storm spotters are another pair of eyes on the ground. They can relay what they see back to the offices and interpret what they see compared to what we see on radar.”

Bass’s role along with the Warren County Emergency Management team is quite simple – he functions as the line of communication between the National Weather Service and spotters.

“We help dispatchers with emergency management reports that come in so we can absorb that and relay it to the National Weather Service in Des Moines,” Bass said.

The worst examples of storm damage have been in Parkersburg, Birmingham and Joplin, when they saw their storms last season. But, there is a silver lining that comes with any bad scenario.

It opened up the eyes to make sure people who are indoors receive the same type of warnings needed as those who may be outside when a storm lurks near a community.

One of those tools is a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio, which has been proven to save lives before.

A radio that serves as a 24-hour weather source can be bought at mostly any convenience store for a fair price. That investment could be difference between being safe and being in harm’s way.

Just like any other curious child, Bass says he always went outside to see what was going on.

“I was famous for walking outside to see what was going on when the outdoor sirens went off,” Bass said. “When those sirens go off, it is a sign that people need to take shelter.”

Bass points out even though having a NOAA radio is handy, listening in to KSTM for information is vital, too.

“Your college station can relay impertinent information along to your students to know whether they need to take cover,” Bass said. “We can pass information along to you and the station can pass it along to the student body. It’s a lot faster than the police department going to the college and trying to relay the information.”

When severe weather does strike, tune into KSTM 88.9 FM or log on to the Simpsonian website for the fastest severe weather information in Warren County.

Those interested in becoming a storm chaser who did not attend the March 20 meeting can to the National Weather Service site to become one.

Zach James is a junior multimedia journalism student. He is a staff writer for the Simpsonian and the sports director for KSTM Radio.