A break from cold weather has been nice, but the change signals a new severe weather season.
Tornado siren and emergency tests on Tuesday kicked off Severe Weather Preparedness Week. The campaign runs March 2 to 6. St. Joseph Emergency Manager Bill Lamar said he is using the time to get messages to people in the community on a range of topics.
“Basically we try to get information to the public about all the types of severe weather that we’re starting to move into,” he said. “This is the season that typically, in the Midwest, we begin to see a lot of severe storms, tornadoes, things like that.”
In 2020, St. Joseph saw a range of damage from flooding and winds, to thunderstorms and fires. As these threats increase, Lamar and Buchanan County Emergency Director Bill Brinton suggest going over emergency plans and checking kits.
“Review their family emergency plan and visit their family emergency kit just to make sure that any food in there is of valid date. And it’s a way to prepare as storm season nears, everybody needs to be prepared,” Brinton said. “The American Red Cross has some good really free information on it, about what you need for a family kit. They have a form you can make for your family plan. If something happens then your family should know where they need to go to contact you.”
There are certain things that should be included in disaster kits.
“It’s the typical things that we talk about, trying to have rations in supplies for a couple of days. Just like Texas, they’ve been without power for several of days, that’s not uncommon so have food, water, shelter, medicines that you’re gonna need for multiple days,” Lamar said. “Cellphones are so commonplace, everybody has a cellphone, but will your battery last two or three days?”
The Buchanan County Emergency Management agency experienced extreme damage to its own buildings during high-wind events in 2020. These natural events are not preventable, but Lamar said some steps can be taken to help if they do occur.
“Especially here in St. Joseph, we’ve seen our fair share of flooding from the river flooding a couple years ago to the localized flooding which was flash flooding,” Lamar said. “Basically, the best thing you can do is try to prepare your home for it. Gutters, downspouts, all those types of things will help on a minimal level but when you have a whole area that gets inundated with rainfall it’s really tough to prevent that from happening.”
Brinton said it’s important not to doubt that severe weather possibilities are coming this season.
“Now we’re getting ready for some thunderstorms. Thunderstorms include wind and there’s always a possibility of a tornado,” he said. “I know people can get complacent because we haven’t had a serious tornado in a few years, but there’s always a time for everything.”
Brinton suggested downloading the American Red Cross app for information and tips for preparing for a potential disaster. Both Brinton and Lamar suggest having a plan to get alerts for severe weather events, because they often are unexpected.