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‘Tis the tornado season to be cautious
In March 5 Issue

Gov. Beshear has signed a proclamation declaring March 2011 as Severe Storms Awareness Month, urging all Kentuckians to be prepared for severe weather.

It is also coming up on tornado season and for that reason, H.M. Bottom and the Russell County Emergency Management team is urging everyone to familiarize yourself with the signs likely to precede a tornado and what to do in the case of a tornado emergency.

This past Monday just after 6 a.m., Bottom said the first tornado warning of 2011 was issued as a strong storm front moved through the area bringing rain, lightning and strong winds to Russell County.

He said the emergency operating center activated all of the county's warning sirens without a hitch and several storm shelters, including the Russell County Courthouse, were opened for the public.

No major damage was reported from the storm but Bottom urged that everyone take note and display caution as the severe storm season reared its ugly head.

On Tuesday, March 8 at approximately 9:07 a.m. a statewide tornado drill will take place. After receiving a call from state division of NOAA (the county emergency plan will be implemented. At this time the county's emergency sirens will be activated for the drill. Local schools, the hospital, the nursing home and major businesses will be informed at this time.

"We encourage all schools, industry and people to participate in the exercise," said Bottom. "This is the time to put your emergency plan in place."

Each school is required to have an emergency management plan and will participate in the exercise.

The yearly Weather Spotter Training will take place toward the end of March and a firm date and time will be announced soon.

It is important to be able to recognize tornado conditions.

Tornadoes are nature's most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.

Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.

Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

The following are facts about tornadoes:

They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.

They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.

The average tornado moves southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.

The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 MPH, but may vary from stationary to 70 MPH.

Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.

  Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.

Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.

Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.

What to do Before a Tornado

Be alert to changing weather conditions.

     Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.      Look for approaching storms

     Look for the following danger signs:

     Dark, often greenish sky

     Large hail

     A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)

     Loud roar, similar to a freight train.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

What to Do During a Tornado

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately.

If you are in A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building) then you should Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

If you are in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

If you are outside with no shelter you should lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.

If the lights go out, are you prepared? That is a simple but necessary question that we must all ask ourselves. In the event of a power outage something as simple as having a flashlight, radio and extra batteries available can make you and your family more comfortable during these times.

Kentuckians face many weather related challenges throughout the year; from tornadoes, flooding, winter storms to manmade hazards. Every household should be prepared to face these challenges at any given time.

In May 2010 Kentuckians experienced unprecedented flooding and many families are still rebuilding from flash floods that struck in July. And who will forget the January 2009 ice storm that left over 700,000 customers without power and over 200,000 customers were without water for days and weeks.

John W. Heltzel, director of Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM) stated, "Although the state and local governments are expected to assist the public during these times, preparedness starts at home. In the event of large scale disasters the government may be unable to respond immediately." He continued, "Be prepared! You should have a three day supply of food and water for each member of your family, along with essentials such as: medicines, flash lights, radio, extra batteries, matches, candles, first aid supplies, etc."

Along with an emergency kit you should have an emergency plan.

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