Bob Kerr | Editor
Kansas and Missouri Severe Weather Awareness Week is March 2-6.
Fort Leavenworth and Leavenworth County Emergency Management will participate in the statewide tornado drill at 10 a.m. March 3, weather permitting. In the event of inclement weather, the drill will be rescheduled for March 5. Outdoor warning sirens, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio alarms and the Emergency Alert System will activate to signal the start of the drill.
Post officials are encouraging residents and employees to prepare for the severe weather season.
All units have designated emergency managers who are responsible for ensuring all employees are aware of their units’ severe weather plan.
Fort Leavenworth has been designated a StormReady community by the National Weather Service’s StormReady program since 2004. This means that Fort Leavenworth has the proper mechanisms in place to warn the local community of changing weather. Requirements of the StormReady designation include a 24-hour warning point and emergency center, a system for monitoring local weather, and two or more ways to notify the public of severe weather.
This is also a great time for families to review their severe weather plans and make a storm kit.
The Garrison website at https://home.army.mil/leavenworth/ has links to local weather and seasonal planning information.
It pays to have a plan for when severe weather threatens and not wait until the warning sirens sound to figure out what to do next. Here are some tips for building awareness and preparing for severe weather:
Pay attention to weather forecasts. A clear, blue sky in the morning may be overtaken by a dark, snarling storm by the afternoon. Local meteorologists know this and are trained to recognize the conditions for the development of storms. Before heading out in the morning for work or other activities, check the local forecast. Make periodic checks throughout the day to see if the situation has changed.
Learn the terrain. Storms in this part of the United States tend to move from the southwest to the northeast. That means that a storm in Douglas County — the area around Lawrence, Kan. — may be heading toward Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties. In general, weather to the south and west of Leavenworth County should be of more concern to post residents than what is going on to the north or east in Missouri.
Know where to take shelter. Most public buildings and businesses on and off post have storm shelters. Visitors in these buildings should take direction from the building staff on where to take shelter during a storm.
Three buildings are opened as public storm shelters during watches after duty hours: the Lewis and Clark Center on Stimson Avenue, the Single Soldier Quarters on Cody Road and Munson Army Health Center at Biddle Boulevard and Pope Avenue. Pets are not allowed in public shelters.
At home, designate and prepare a storm shelter before a severe storm strikes. In a home with a basement, the southwest corner, away from any windows, is the safest place to be. This can be improved with a heavy workbench or other overhead cover.
In homes without basements, a windowless interior room is the preferred shelter. Often this is a bathroom or utility closet.
Equip the shelter with some basic items that may be needed during or after the storm. Flashlights and a battery-operated radio — with fresh batteries — are a good start. Blankets, snacks and water are also recommended.
Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s site at https://www.ready.gov/ for tips on making a plan and preparing a shelter.
Use the radio, television or Internet to keep track of what is going on outside. Be advised that there is no “all clear” siren and that when a siren stops, it does not mean the storm is over. If the siren sounds a second time, it probably means a second threat has been detected in the county. Stay in the shelter until certain all threats are clear.
After a storm has passed, many people go outside to assess any damage the storm may have caused. When outdoors, be extremely careful to avoid downed power lines and downed or damaged trees.
Do not enter or allow children to play in storm water runoff or areas that can potentially flash flood. More people are killed by floods than by tornadoes.
Do some homework and plan for the storm season. Visit the National Weather Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency on the Internet to find many more resources and tips for surviving the storm season.
A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes.
In case of a tornado watch, prepare to take shelter:
• Assemble the family.
• Inspect, supply and equip your shelter. The shelter should be in a basement under something sturdy like a workbench. Stay away from chimneys and out from under heavy furniture on overhead floors. Stock the shelter area with blankets, water, food, a first aid kit, portable radio, flashlight and spare clothing.
• If no good private shelter is available, prepare to move to a community shelter.
• Leave mobile homes and move to public shelter. Even mobile homes with secure tie-down systems cannot withstand a tornado’s winds.
• Leave large buildings with vast, unsupported ceilings, such as auditoriums, gymnasiums and warehouses.
• Stop outdoor activities and move to an indoor shelter.
• Closely monitor television and radio for storm updates.
• Postpone running errands; stay indoors and out of automobiles.
Tornado Warning A tornado warning means a tornado has been indicated and confirmed by the National Weather Service or has been spotted in Leavenworth County. In case of a tornado warning, take shelter immediately:
• Go to a basement shelter, if available.
• Move into a designated community shelter, if immediately available.
• If a basement is not available or movement to public shelter is impractical, go to a small, ground-level room — such as a closet, bathroom or hallway — away from windows and heavy furniture, such as refrigerators or china cabinets.
• If outdoors, find shelter immediately in a depression, ditch or ravine. Lie flat to lower your profile. Be aware that some areas may be prone to flash flooding.
• If in an automobile, stop immediately and seek the nearest shelter. Do not stay in the vehicle or try to outrun the tornado.