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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Severe weather drill scheduled for Tuesday

Friday, March 5, 2010

No more vivid reminder of the devastating power of a tornado is needed locally than to view what happened to Pierce City on May 4, 2003. Above is one of many photos taken by Linus Campbell from his ultralite plane on May 5, 2003, showing the block west of Locust Street, where practically every building was flattened. The Casey's convenience store is at center right and the National Guard Armory, now the Clark Community Mental Health Center headquarters, is at top.
Missouri's 36th annual state tornado drill will be held at 1:30 p.m. on March 9. Local emergency management officials encourage Barry Countians to practice emergency plans next Tuesday.

"The state tornado drill is intended to raise awareness about preparedness activities that go along with the severe weather season," said David Compton, Barry County Emergency Management director. "Schools, churches, businesses and others are encouraged to practice their severe weather plans during the drill."

According to Compton local outdoor warning sirens and indoor weather radios will be activated during the tornado drill, giving residents across the state an opportunity to practice response activities.

"The drill will be initiated in St. Louis and travel across the state," said Compton. "We have received special permission from the FCC to activate weather radios by generating tones using the actual warning codes.

"Weather radios do not activate during the regular monthly tests," said Compton. "This is the only day that is set aside when the state receives special permission from the FCC to activate the weather radio codes for a more realistic test."

Each year, the Barry County Emergency Management Office attends a regional group severe weather coordination meeting to discuss the state-wide drill. Barry County has been participating in the drill for around four years.

The local emergency management office also offers annual severe weather spotter training in the county. This year's training, which includes instruction by the National Weather Service, will be held at the Barry County Courthouse in Cassville at 6 p.m. on March 22.

"During part of the training, the local emergency management office will offer their perspective on severe weather," said Compton. "We will discuss how the damage reports come back to us and why those reports are important. We will also discuss the proactive services that are done locally, including sending out spotters."

Due to a sudden change from winter to spring weather that occurs around March each year, Missouri has designated the month as Severe Spring Weather Preparedness Month.

"Local residents should remember that outdoor warning sirens are designed to provide warning outdoors only," said Compton. "That is why it is imperative that every household and business have a weather radio.

"People should also have an emergency plan put together," said Compton. "When that siren or weather tone sounds, they should know exactly what they are going to do."

According to the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), students and school staff should never seek shelter in a cafeteria, gymnasium or other large open room where the roof could collapse. Individuals who reside in mobile homes should seek shelter in a nearby building.

Drivers should stop and take shelter in the closest building. Overpasses are not safe locations to seek shelter. Individuals driving in rural areas should seek shelter in a roadside ditch and protect themselves from flying debris by covering their head with their arms, a coat or a blanket.

"Warnings are immediate," said Compton. "They mean that a tornado is on the ground or that spotters believe that a tornado will be on the ground shortly. You only have a few minutes to react.

"Tornados come into Barry County from every angle," said Compton. "There is no where in the county where you should assume that you have any type of lead time. At most, you will have three to five minutes to respond to a message."

Sirens and weather radio tones should be regarded as a call to action, said Compton.

"Those tones mean that we want you to do something," said Compton. "If the tones or sirens continue to sound, then you need to continue to be in your shelter."

No all-clear tones are sounded during severe weather events. Residents should assume that there is a threat until the sirens or tones stop.

"In 2008, we had 14 tornados touch down in Barry County during a 12-hour period," said Compton. "I heard people say that the sirens sounded for hours, so they thought they must have been broken. If those sirens continue to sound, you have to think that there continues to be a threat."

A tornado watch means that a tornado may form during a thunderstorm, and a tornado warning means to seek shelter immediately. An interior room without windows on the lowest floor is the safest shelter location.

For more information on SEMA's Spring Severe Weather Campaign, visit sema.dps.mo.gov.

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