Severe weather season is on its way

rpulley@lsjournal.comMarch 7, 2014 

This week Missouri and local fire departments are gearing up for severe weather that will come with spring, even though there’s still a smattering of snow in the weekend forecast.

The effort included sending a test of alert systems on March 6 and other publicity for Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Lee’s Summit Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Jim Eden said residents should keep in mind basics.

Be aware of the forecast, local weather conditions and be prepared.

“If things look bad, take shelter on your own,” Eden said. The weather can change drastically in a couple of hours, storms can form overhead, or vary within a few miles.

“Raintree Lake can be perfectly clear and Lakewood can be getting hammered,” Eden said.

He recommends using at least two methods for getting alerts, as one of them might not get noticed. Don’t depend on sirens, because they’re designed for warning people outside and might not be heard inside.

Eden recommends that each household have a NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio, which is programmable for 24-hour alerts including tornadoes, thunderstorms, flash floods from the National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Watch for alerts by emails, Nixle (alerts sent to your phone or email by Lee’s Summit) or some carriers send alerts through cell phones as well.

In the event of a warning, take cover. During thunderstorms, stay indoors.

If there’s a tornado and you’re away from home at a big-box store or a church, seek shelter in a bathroom, not in the open span of a building. Outdoors, lie down in a ditch, or try to outrun the tornado in your car, depending on the conditions that would be your call, Eden said.

At home, seek the lowest spot to shelter, a basement, or go to an interior room without windows like a bathroom.

When a “microburst” hit the Raintree Lake subdivision in 1996 wrecking many homes, the rooms most often left intact were bathrooms, Eden said.

Another example from Raintree Lake, a little preparation can pay off if a storm actually hits your home.

Eden recalls seeing bloody footprints in homes after a microburst demolished neighborhoods in Lee’s Summit Raintree Lake subdivision. People walking through there homes, getting out of bed barefoot, had their feet cut by debris.

So people should have clothes, shoes, gloves and blankets ready as part of an emergency kit if their home is part of a disaster.

For the areas in Lee’s Summit where streets sometimes flood, such as Tudor Road on the east side, don’t trust you can cross safely.

While Lee’s Summit workers will monitor known spots where streets can flood, conditions can change so rapidly, they may not have put up barriers for flooded streets.

Six inches of racing water can sweep you off your feet. Two feet of depth can carry away a vehicle. Be cautious at night because you can end up in flooded area suddenly, because of less visibility.

If there are storms, respect the danger. Don’t go outside to video of a tornado.

“When we find it, it makes it easy for us to identify the last thing you were doing,” Eden said.

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