Despite the fact that Monett and surrounding areas were already under a tornado watch in February, tornado season here doesn't traditionally doesn't begin until this month. In anticipation of that, the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) will conduct the 35th annual tornado drill at about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, weather permitting.
The civil de¬fense system for the City of Monett will be tested as part of Disaster Preparedness Month in Missouri, according to Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Monett's emergency preparedness coordinator.
The drill takes less than 15 min¬utes to perform. Once the severe weather announcement is made, citizens are asked to seek shelter in the lowest level (basement if possi¬ble) interior room away from win¬dows. Those in chools and businesses might seek shelter in basements, hallways or under staircases. The drill also highlights the importance of accounting for everyone in the home, class or office.
If Missouri is experiencing statewide severe weather condi¬tions on March 10, the National Weather Service will hold the drill on Thursday, March 12.
David Compton, director of the Barry County Office of Emergency Management, and Mike Rowe, who holds the same position in Lawrence County, stated the drill will be initiated from the National Weather Service office in St. Louis.
Locally, the warning message will be received from the National Weather Service by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio, local and regional media and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Once the warning message has been received, the outdoor warning sirens will be ac¬tivated for three minutes, and all NOAA weather radios will activate as they would during an actual emergency. Also, the city's emer¬gency phone tree will be activated, calling area businesses on the list of those to be notified in the event of an emergency. Anyone wishing to be added to the list can call the Monett Police Department at 235-4241.
The Monett schools, the city's nursing homes and Cox Monett Hospital may hold separate drills on Tuesday.
Tom Jones, Monett's fire chief, stated firefighters will take part in the drill by going to pre-arranged locations as spotters for a potential tornado.
Barry County was hit by tornadoes on Jan. 7 of last year. One flattened the trailer park at Midway, three miles south of Monett. No people were hurt, thanks to timely warning.
On May 10, a tornado hit Purdy. One man was killed in a mobile home after several had been killed as the storm crossed Newton County.
Lawrence County was hit with a tornado in October of 2007. While there were no reported deaths, there was considerable damage to houses and buildings.
Three years ago was a deadly one, both locally and in the state, be¬cause of tornadoes. There were a total of eight killer tornadoes in Missouri in 2006 resulting in 12 deaths, according to SEMA.
A rural Marionville resident was killed, 21 homes destroyed, and 46 homes damaged in a tornado that hit the Aurora/Marionville area on March 12, 2006, SEMA reported.
The City of Caruthersville was devastated by a tornado in April of 2006 that also claimed a life.
In May of 2003 five peo¬ple were killed in Lawrence County from injuries sustained in a tornado which also destroyed most of Pierce City's business district, and at least 18 deaths were attributed to storms throughout the state that fateful day.
Two women were killed and 14 other people were injured in December of 2002 near Mt. Vernon, when a tornado leveled a mobile home park and damaged four nearby homes in Lawrence County, reported then Sheriff Doug Seneker.
The last local tornado related death before 2002 was in the Nov. 15, 1988, storm that killed an elderly woman at Butterfield.
According to the National Weather Service, area residents, businesses, schools and emergency management personnel are encouraged to use Severe Weather Awareness Week as the springboard into preparing for the 2009 severe weather season.
Daily themes during this week will include: Monday--Preparedness Day; Tuesday, Tornadoes Day; Wednesday, Flash Floods Day; Thursday, Thunderstorm Day; and Friday, NOAA Weather Radio Day.