First tornado warning of the season
By Robin Scott
During tornado season, residents may expect tornados, downburst rains, and hail storms. Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are a real threat in the Texas Panhandle and advance planning for severe weather is something all area residents should begin to consider.
The Governor’s Division of Emergency Management (GDEM) advises that the first step in preparedness is to monitor TV, radio and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for weather updates. It is also imperative to have plenty of batteries available and have battery-powered equipment available. A tornado watch means to “watch the sky.” It is issued when severe weather is expected and large or multiple tornadoes are a possibility. A tornado warning requires action and means that a tornado is on the ground or about to strike.
Anyone in a tornado’s potential path should seek shelter immediately. Warnings generally last for an hour or less, according to GDEM. Dallam County has access to the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS). The National Weather Center provides up-to-the-minute weather information on the system. Central dispatch, located at the Dallam/Hartley County Jail, utilizes the TLETS computer system as well as the Dalhart Police Department. Information about severe weather arrives over the TLETS computer and puts the Dallam/Hartley County area on alert of severe weather.
Central dispatch, located at the Dallam/Hartley County Jail, has the responsibility of sounding the alarm and alerting all area emergency personnel. Emergency personnel include the police department, fire department, EMS and the Sheriff Offices for both Dallam and Hartley Counties. The officials carry pagers so they may be notified during times of emergency.
Protective shelter should be selected in advance for home, work and school. Shelters should be on ground level or within basements, and away from widows. Stairwells or interior hallways are preferable, provided there are no windows. Mattresses may be used as protection against flying debris if time permits, and blankets or sleeping bags may be used as well.
Anyone traveling in a vehicle, or residing in a mobile home should seek immediate shelter. If no shelter is available, then lying flat in the nearest ditch or depression is best, making sure to keep an eye on potential floodwaters. Shelters that are considered unacceptable are those with high wide roofs, such as auditoriums or gyms, or shopping malls and highway overpasses.
More information on severe weather and severe weather may be obtained at www.noaa.org, www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem, www.srh.\nosa.gov.lub/safety/swaw and www.redcross.org. Information regarding local preparedness may be obtained from the Dalhart Police Department, Dalhart Fire Department, EMS, Dallam County Sheriff’s Office, Hartley County Sheriff’s Office and Central Dispatch.