By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
While Chase County dealt with some high wind damage, there were no official tornado sightings in 2014.
Duane Dreiling, the county’s Emergency Manager, hopes it’s the same this season.
But it never hurts to be prepared. That why the Nebraska Weather Service sets aside a week in March each year for Severe Weather Awareness Week.
This year it arrives next week, March 23-27, with a statewide tornado drill sandwiched in the middle of it on Wednesday, March 25.
Dreiling said Chase County will take part in the drill next Wednesday. It will start with the issuance of a mock tornado warning at 9 a.m. Sirens will sound about 9:30 a.m., he said.
Emergency officials encourage residents, businesses and schools to test their severe weather emergency preparedness plans during the March 25 drill.
Dreiling also noted the mock drill is a time to get more familiar with the tornado siren.
It’s different from the more-familiar fire whistle, which has an up-and-down tone. The tornado siren tone rises and remains on that even, steady tone, he said.
In Chase County, residents benefit from the service of 10 people who are “spotters,” those who head out when conditions are ripe for tornadoes to watch the skies.
Besides Dreiling, Chase County’s spotters include Cory Schuller, Earl Loop, Joe Weiss, Josh Burke and Kelsey Weiss, all of Imperial; Nate Jenkins, Champion; Mark Berry, Lamar; and Bill Bischoff and Bob Goings, Wauneta.
While Chase County was tornado-free last season, Nebraska had an above-average year of tornadoes, according to the Weather Service.
Sixty-three tornadoes were recorded, 20 more than the 64-year average.
The most devastating was the one that hit Pilger and areas near Wisner June 16 that killed two people and injured 21 others.
The biggest day for tornadoes in 2014 was May 11 when 13 touched down in various part of Nebraska.
As in most years, June is the month with the most tornadoes. Thirty-five hit the state in June 2014.
Severe Weather Awareness Week doesn’t concentrate only on tornado preparedness.
Weather Service officials also encourage Nebraskans to know their risk when it comes to large hail, damaging thunderstorm winds, floods and lightning.
Severe weather myths, facts
Myth—If it is not raining, then there is no danger from lightning.
Fact—Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
Myth—Structures with metal or metal on the body attract lightning
Fact—Height, pointy shape and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike.
Myth—Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact—Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it is a tall, pointy and isolated object.
Myth—The rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from being struck by lightning.
Fact—Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. The steel frame of a hard topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are inside and not touching metal.
Myth—Overpasses are safe shelters when a tornado strikes.
Fact—Overpasses are unsafe! They can concentrate the wind, causing it to be stronger. People have been killed and injured taking shelter under an overpass.
Myth—Low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to explode. Open a window before taking shelter.
Fact—Opening a window attempting to equalize pressure has no effect. Move to a safe area immediately!
Myth—An approaching tornado will always be visible.
Fact—While most have a visible funnel, it is not always the case. Tornadoes can be hidden by trees and terrain, or may even be wrapped in rain!
Myth—Flash floods mainly occur in the eastern United States.
Fact—Flash floods have and can occur in all 50 states.