Staying safe during severe weather

This bear was one of the only things to remain in one piece during the Joplin, Missouri, tornado in 2011. This photo was taken by Sheldon Lyon when he was aiding the relief effort as a trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Spring is right around the corner, and although it is expected to bring more sunshine and warmer temperatures it can also be a time where our area will be seeing severe weather.

Severe Weather Week comes to an end today, but knowing how to stay safe from the impending severe weather is something community members need to remain ready for at all times.

Preparations for being able to protect yourself and your family from bad weather start before that weather comes, according to Bill Brinton, the emergency director for Buchanan County.

“Every family should have an emergency plan. They should pratice that plan and know what the plan is and make sure that their children are aware of the plan and if there’s severe weather, you follow that plan,” Brinton said.

A severe weather plan will be directed in part by what your living situation is. Sheldon Lyon with the St. Joseph Safety Council said if you don’t have a basement to get underground, there are other options.

“If there is no basement available, certainly we want to go to an interior area of the house,” Lyon said. “What that basically means is you try and put one wall between you and the outside.”

Lyon gained firsthand experience in dealing with catastrophic weather events when he aided the cleanup process in Joplin, Missouri, in 2011 when he was a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“(It) really amazed me the amount of devastation in that area,” Lyon said. “You would drive by and see the concrete slab that the house sat on, entire house was gone.”

Brinton said weather events like the Joplin tornado should be warning enough for everyone to have a solid plan in place during an emergency.

“That was an F-5 and it wiped out almost half the town and it killed 150 people,” Brinton said.

Lyon added that flying debris is often a reason why people lose their lives during these instances.

“When you look at the people who died in the Joplin tornado, the majority of them were caught without shelter. The people that survived were the people that were able to seek shelter, for the most part.” Lyon said.

Brinton said to make sure to stockpile necessities in case you become trapped following severe weather because help may not be on the way as quickly as you’d hope.

“People should have water, they should have food, they should have extra medicine and they should have money,” Brinton said. “It used to be that people were advised to be able to provide for themselves for 72 hours because you don’t know when people are going to be there.”

According to Brinton, that policy has changed.

“Now the national standard is 96 hours. So people need to look at what they’re going to need for 96 hours if they’re trapped in somewhere,” he said.

The safety experts also said people should make sure to stay tuned to local media and to have weather radios or a weather app that will track the storm and the level of danger.

Zach Barrett can be reached at zach.barrett@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowBarrett.