Severe Weather Awareness Week 2021: March 1st through March 5th

Deanna Bonn
Times-Gazette

Despite the recent historic cold snap, spring will eventually arrive and with it will come our next severe weather season. In preparation for that, the National Weather Service (NWS) has declared the week of March 1st through March 5th as "Severe Weather Awareness Week" in Kansas.

Severe weather week is dedicated to preventing casulties to weather, like the 13 in the 1958 tornado that struck El Dorado.

“As a show of support for this public outreach campaign, the Butler County Board of Commissioners has also proclaimed that as ‘Severe Weather Awareness Week’ in the county,” said Keri Korthals, Director of Butler County Emergency Management.

As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, a Statewide Tornado Drill will be conducted at 10 a.m.   March 2.  On the morning of March 2nd , many jurisdictions will sound their storm sirens, and the NWS will trigger a test of the NOAA Weather Alert Radios.

“Whether you can actually hear an alert activation or not, everyone is encouraged to take the opportunity to practice tornado sheltering during that time period,” Korthals said. “To keep safe from COVID-19, though, you may need to make some adjustments, especially if your shelter location serves a large number of people.”

“In order to participate in the drill but still follow public health recommendations, like social distancing guidance, you may want to simply shelter-in-place or talk through your sheltering steps with family or co-workers.”

The NWS has put together an informational packet about Kansas' severe weather statistics and events. That packet can be downloaded by visiting the Butler County website and clicking on the packet link: https://www.bucoks.com/687/8435/EMA-Events-and-Activities Last year, the pandemic caused the National Weather Service to cancel their "Storm Fury on the Plains" public education events which are also known as "Storm Spotter Classes."

This year the NWS is still unable to offer in-person classes; however, they have set up a series of virtual training events. To register for one of their web-based Storm Fury classes, visit the NWS website: https://www.weather.gov/ict/spottertalks.

Individuals who shelter from storms in a populated space such as a community storm shelter, may be concerned about acquiring COVID-19 if they go to that shelter. Both the Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KDEM) and our office advocate addressing the most life-threatening problem first. During a dangerous storm, it is more important to get people out of the path of that storm than to keep them separated to prevent disease spread.

Choosing not to shelter, or selecting an inadequate shelter, could result in storm-related injuries or deaths.

“If you do go to a community shelter, try to space yourself out from people outside your household, if the shelter is large enough,” said Korthals. “Also, wear a mask while in the shelter and make use of any available hand sanitizer.”