Extreme Spring Weather Is Just Around The Corner

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Chances of severe weather usually begin in March of each year. In the case of Benton County that means that we could experience tornadoes, flash floods, severe thunderstorms and high winds. In order to help save lives by promoting preparedness for storms, the State of Missouri has declared the week of March 4-10 Missouri Severe Weather Awareness Week. 
Monday is set aside for Preparedness. People need to find out the severe weather hazards they might face, and set up a plan to follow when they occur. Tuesday is about Tornado Safety, and statewide sirens will go off at 10 AM for a practice drill. Wednesday is Flash Flood Safety day, Thursday is Severe Thunderstorm Safety day, and Friday is Communication/NOAA Weather Radio Day.
Benton County Emergency Management Director, Mark Richardson, said that there are no local public storm shelters that meet federal requirements, but places like the Community Building in Warsaw might be considered a go-to place during a tornado, for those who have no other option.
“Although the Community Building does not meet government requirements, no one in the building will turn away those who seek shelter there during a storm,” said Richard. (A proposal to build a community storm shelter in Warsaw was voted down a few years ago in Warsaw, because of the expense of doing so.) “Building a Government sanctioned storm shelters are very expensive, not only for the construction costs, but they have to be manned.”
The web site www.weather.gov suggests that during a tornado warning residents should go to a safe place that might include a protected area of a basement, a ground floor bathroom, hall or closet. It reports that it is important to stay away from windows and doors and to cover yourself with blankets or mattresses. Those in mobile homes need to plan their escape to a sturdy building.
“As part of a storm safety plan for those without a basement, it is a good idea to know your neighbors who might be able to provide the necessary shelter,” said Richardson. “For those in town when a tornado warning is issued, there may be shelter in the courthouse and some banks where there are basements. It is advisable to stay away from buildings with flat, wide span roofs.”
Richardson said that Benton County has only had 23 confirmed tornadoes since 1950, and fortunately they have not caused any fatalities. Missouri has a yearly average of 34 tornados with about six fatalities.
Flash floods have been a major weather killer in Missouri for many years. There were nine deaths caused by flooding in Missouri in 2017. Six inches of swift water can knock someone off their feet.  Two feet of water can float most vehicles. Do not drive into flooded areas, or around a barricade Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks particularly when thunderstorms are in or close to the area. The safety slogan to remember is “Turn around Don’t Drown.”
Thunderstorms by definition are rain showers that contain lightning. They can last 30 to 60 minutes, have large hail and damaging straight-line winds of 58 mph, or wind gusts of 100 mph. Since 2013, four Missouri residents have died and three injured because of lightning strikes. Thunderstorm winds injured 10 last year in the state. Go inside a building or vehicle during lightning.
Communications planning is important.  Ensure that your NOAA Weather Radio has fresh batteries and is set to the correct frequency to receive a warning for your area. Refer to radio and television, the internet, or cell phones. 
National Weather Service phone numbers located in Missouri are St. Louis, 636-441-8467, and in Springfield, 417-869-4491. The Benton County Emergency Management number is 660-438-8412. Websites that have important weather information include www.weather.gov, www.accuweather.com/en/us/mo/missouri-weather, and www.ky3.com/weather/alerts. 
A list of severe safety tips can be found at www.redcross.org.