Marengo EMA offers tornado awareness tips

Published 11:53 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When the weather begins to get warm again, area weather forecasters begin to think about tornadoes and tornado safety.

Very often, people don’t know what to do when they hear a tornado watch or tornado warning.

A tornado watch means that the weather conditions are conducive for the formation of tornadoes. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been visibly spotted or seen in weather radar.

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“With a watch, people need to start paying attention to the news and weather to see what develops,” said Kevin McKinney, the Marengo County Emergency Management Agency director. “When you hear a warning, that’s when it’s time to seek shelter.”

McKinney said the best place to seek shelter would be a small interior room with four walls, like a hallway, closet or small bathroom.

“In particular, people need to leave mobile homes,” he said. “A lot of damage is done to mobile homes because they are not as sturdy a structure as houses. If someone lives in a mobile home and a tornado watch or warning is given, they need to seek shelter with a neighbor or a friend. They need to have a plan for the entire family as to where they are going to go, like a family member’s house or a friend’s house. That is a plan that needs to be addressed early and gone over.”

“We don’t sound the sirens unless there is a warning,” he said. “We have a policy not to sound them for a watch.”

Those sirens are located in Sweet Water, Dixon’s Mill, Myrtlewood, Linden, Thomaston and Demopolis.

“Right now, we sound them all,” McKinney said.

“Many times, a storm is coming through the south end of the county and it’s sunny in Demopolis, or vice versa. There is technology becoming available where we can sound sirens in individual areas, which is going to help.

“We are also looking into getting a call-down system, where we can actually do a reverse-911. In other words, there are systems available that will actually call out, rather than people calling in, and we can put the notices out even to cell phones.”

McKinney recommended that people get weather radios, which are now programmable for specific counties.

For example, someone living in Marengo County may want to program a weather radio for that county or any counties to the west and south, where Marengo County storms generally originate.

McKinney said information would be available to the public through severe storm pamphlets. Those pamphlets would be available in the license division of the Marengo County Probate Office on the first floor of the courthouse.