Chase County will
host statewide tornado drill next Wednesday
By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
Spring is historically the season for severe weather such as tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and hail. With that in mind, the National Weather Service has designated March 24-29 as Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness Week.
On Wednesday, March 26, a statewide tornado drill will be held between 9-10 a.m. MT. Duane Dreiling, Chase County Emergency Manager, said his department will be following the state protocol.
The tornado drill sequence begins with a Test Tornado Watch issued by the Storm Prediction Center. That will be followed by Test Tornado Warnings issued by the six weather forecast offices that serve Nebraska. In Chase County’s case, that is the station at Lee Bird Field in North Platte.
The local Emergency Management centers then activate their tornado sirens. Dreiling said, at that point, schools, businesses and the public should react as if a tornado was approaching and take shelter.
“We want to see the schools react the way they should,” he observed.
Across the country, the number of tornadoes reported in 2013 totaled 942. This number was down considerably compared to the last eight years, which averaged 1,478 tornadoes, and was the lowest number of tornadoes in the 61-year annual Storm Prediction Center database.
For Nebraska, the 2013 tornado season was also below the 30-year average of 54 with 49 tornadoes.
Last year, the severe weather season began March 19 with a brief landspout tornado that touched down near Shelton.
The following month on April 8-9 saw very active wind and hail days. The severe weather took a break and a rare and historic early May snow was reported across central and eastern Nebraska May 1-2.
Typically, June is the peak month for tornadoes, but in 2013 the tornado peak occurred in May when 23 tornadoes were recorded. There were only nine in June.
In southwest Nebraska, three weather events took center stage in 2013.
There were continued drought conditions, an early season tornado damaged a farm east of Benkelman and flash flooding and hail 18 inches deep was reported west of Palisade in early August.
Severe thunderstorms damaged property with straight-line winds or damaging downbursts in southwest Nebraska in 2013. Those storms occurred in April, May, June, July and August.
Record river flooding was also seen from Sept. 18-23 on the North and South Platte Rivers.
Dreiling said Chase County was lucky last spring, with no large hail or tornadoes.
Dreiling, who took on the county’s Emergency Manager position the past year, works with a team of severe weather spotters throughout the county. They include Bob Goings, Bill Bischoff, Cory Schuller, Kelsey Weiss, Earl Loop, Joe Weiss, Mark Berry, Josh Burke and Paul Kunnemann.
The National Weather Service explains the difference between “watch” and “warning” for severe weather as follows:
A watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather in and close to the watch area. The size of the watch depends on the situation and is usually for a duration of four to eight hours.
A warning is issued when severe weather has either been detected by radar or reported by storm spotters. Information in the warning will include the location, the primary threat and the path of the storm. Warnings can be issued without a watch already in effect.
A thunderstorm is considered severe when it produces hail that is one inch in diameter or larger, damaging winds equal to or greater than 58 miles per hour or a tornado.
If a tornado warning is issued, a person at home should go to the storm shelter or basement. If neither is available, go to the lowest floor and seek a windowless room in the center of the house like a bathroom or closet.
Persons living in mobile homes should leave immediately and seek a sturdy shelter.
If lightning is striking, a home or hard top car offer safe shelter. Stay out of the bathtub, away from windows and electrical appliances. If possible, turn off all appliances prior to the storm’s arrival. Don’t use a corded telephone during a lightning event unless it’s an emergency.