From snow to wind
By Robin Scott
The snow has barely melted and a new concern begins. Tornado season begins as soon as the cool weather of winter hits the warmer weather of spring, and again when the warmer weather of summer hits the cooler weather of fall, making tornado season a seven to nine month ordeal. With tornado season comes severe thunderstorms, downburst rains and hail. Area residents are encouraged to prepare for the windy season early. The 2010 tornado season is predicted to be particularly nasty. The reason is due to the large amount of snowfall that hit the mid-west this winter. The left over moisture from melting snow and cold air will soon be met with the approaching warmer air from the Gulf of Mexico, which means that conditions will be conducive to strong thunderstorms that spawn tornados.
The Governor’s Division of Emergency Management (GDEM) advises that the first step in preparedness is to monitor TV, radio and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for weather updates. Storing up essential items is key to proper preparedness. Extra batteries, battery-powered equipment and water are important items.
Terms that will pop on television screens soon include “Tornado Watch,” which means to “watch the sky,” and is issued when severe weather is expected and large or multiple tornadoes possible. A “Tornado Warning,” means to take action because a tornado has been spotted on the ground or about to strike.
Although a tornado warning may only encompass one county or only a portion of a county, anyone in the tornado’s potential path should seek shelter immediately. Warnings generally last for an hour or less, according to the 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 also 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.
Designate a protective shelter beforehand for work, home and school. Shelters should be on ground level or within basements, and away from widows. Stairwells or interior hallways are preferable, but only if they have no windows. Mattresses, blankets or sleeping bags may be used as protection against flying debris if time permits.
Safety while traveling in a vehicle, or residing in a mobile home includes seeking 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. Unacceptable shelters are those with high wide roofs such as auditoriums or gyms, shopping malls and highway overpasses.
For more information about severe weather visit 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.