New sirens in Imperial, Champion, Enders to be tested in March 16 drill
By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Already last Thursday, County Emergency Manager Paul Kunnemann thought he may have to send a few spotters out.
A large cell was moving from the south toward Imperial that might have contained some hail, he said. However, the cell moved off to the east.
The area did receive some rain, but that was it.
“The severe weather season has started,” Kunnemann said.
Officially, the state of Nebraska will observe Severe Weather Week March 14-18.
On Wednesday, March 16, Kunnemann said the county will take part in the statewide Tornado Safety Drill about 9:30 a.m. MT
It’s a time when local residents can become familiar with the tornado siren, which differs from the more familiar fire whistle. It is also a time for families and business owners to establish a place to take cover in the event of a tornado.
Next week’s test will also be used to check the five new sirens in Imperial, Champion and Enders installed the past few months.
Those new sirens will make the warnings more audible to larger areas, Kunnemann said.
In Imperial, the new sirens were placed in the southwest corner of Schroeder Park in the southwest part of town. The other went in by the county shop and new EMS building in northwest Imperial.
Kunnemann said the siren at the courthouse will also stay in operation.
The new siren in Champion was placed by the school.
The town of Enders and the lake nearby did not have sirens before, Kunnemann noted.
In the town of Enders, the siren is north of the former bank building. The other one was set on Lookout Point, on the north side of Enders dam.
Kunnemann said the county received a $50,000 Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) grant that purchased the five new sirens.
It was a 75/25 matching grant, with the city of Imperial and Chase County sharing the 25% match that paid for the related costs such as poles, wiring, etc.
Kunnemann noted that Highline Electric helped with some of the related costs for Champion’s siren, while Southwest Public Power did the same with those in Enders.
City of Imperial funds paid for the related costs for the two new sirens in the city limits.
The additional sirens were needed, Kunnemann said.
Some had commented that the siren at the courthouse could not be heard in all parts of Imperial. Champion was the only other community, outside of Wauneta, that had a severe weather siren until these new ones were placed.
Kunnemann has a crew of 10, counting himself, who serve as spotters during the severe weather season, and physically go out and watch the skies when threatening weather is near.
The others include Cory Schuller, Kelsey Weiss, Joe Weiss and Earl Loop, all of Imperial; Nate Jenkins and Don Welch, Champion; Mark Berry, Lamar; and Bill Bischoff and Bobby Goings, Wauneta.
The 2010 season was relatively calm, with little severe weather in Chase County.
Dundy County to the south had the most severe weather of the 2010 season, and had the only tornado sighting on May 16. Dundy County also suffered from several hail storms last summer.
system at EMS building
A second communication system has been set up in the new EMS building at 13th and Grant Sts., Kunnemann said, since the building went into use late last year.
He said that will provide a second site for emergency communication should something happen to the dispatching center at the courthouse.
Or, it could be used as a secondary communication center in the event of a disaster, he said.
A 100%-funded NEMA grant of $6,000 paid for the additional pole, antenna and radios at the EMS building, as well as additional radios in the Imperial police station and sheriff’s office.
Kunnemann noted other regional emergency management funds of $14,000 recently purchased a light tower and generator for use by fire departments, EMS personnel and other emergency workers in Chase, Perkins and Hayes Counties.
The unit is portable to aid with visibility during emergency calls at night. He said emergency responders can contact him and the unit will be transferred by emergency management to the site.
Severe weather facts, myths
Myth: Highway and interstate overpasses are safe shelters against a tornado.
Fact: Overpasses can concentrate the tornado winds, causing them to be significantly stronger. This places the people under them in an even more dangerous situation. In recent years, several people seeking shelter beneath overpasses have been killed or severely injured. Being above ground level during a tornado is dangerous.
Myth: The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to explode. Opening the windows will equalize the pressure, saving the building.
Fact: Opening the windows in an attempt to equalize pressure will have no effect. It is the violent winds and debris that cause most structural damage. It is more important for you to move to a safe area away from windows and exterior walls. With a tornado, every second counts, so use your time wisely and take cover.
Myth: Thunderstorms and tornadoes always move from west to east.
Fact: More often than not, thunderstorms move from west to east. Conditions in the atmosphere dictate how and where storms will move, and it can be in any direction. Tornadoes have been known to act erratic, and can change directions and speed very quickly. Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.
Myth: It’s not raining here, and skies above me are clear, therefore I am safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning can strike many miles away from the thunderstorm. If storms are in your area, but skies happen to be clear above you, that certainly does not imply you are safe from lightning. Though these “Bolts from the Blue” are infrequent, lightning strikes 10 to 15 miles away from the storm are not out of the question.
Myth: Since I am inside my house and out of the storm, I am completely safe from lightning.
Fact: Just because you have taken shelter inside, you are not automatically safe. While inside waiting out a storm, avoid using the telephone or electrical appliances and do not take showers or baths. Also stay away from doors and windows. Telephone lines, cords, plumbing, even metal window and door frames are all lightning conductors and pose a threat
Myth: Large and heavy vehicles, such as SUVs and pickups, are safe to drive through flood waters.
Fact: It is a common belief that the larger the vehicle, the deeper the water it can drive through. Many people do not realize that two feet of water can float most vehicles, including SUVs and pickups. If the water is moving rapidly, vehicles can be swept away.
Myth: Flash floods only occur along flowing streams.
Fact: Flash floods can and do occur in dry creek or river beds as well as urban areas where no streams are present.
Public tornado shelters in Imperial—Lied Imperial Public Library, Chase County Schools, city gym basement and the new Lions restroom in Campbell Park.