This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week. On Wednesday, local schools participated in tornado drills.
“The drill couldn’t have been scheduled at a more appropriate time,” said Jerry Johnson Jr., of Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency. It was just a few days ago that Bradley County recorded close to 10 inches of snowfall.
“This is a prime example of how our weather can drastically change,” said Johnson.
Change is apparently in the air, judging from the latest forecasts that project potentially severe weather will be moving into the Bradley County area tonight, according to David Hotz, National Weather Service meteorologist.
Hotz presented a NWS briefing Wednesday afternoon, explaining what emergency managers could expect of the incoming storm.
The event should last about three hours and will approach from West Tennessee. Up to 2 inches of rainfall are expected along with high winds and gusts possibly exceeding 30 mph. Trees and utility lines could be downed due to strong winds and already-saturated ground from recent snowfall.
At Wednesday’s briefing, Hotz said timing of the storm moving into Bradley County should be around 7 p.m.
Tornadic activity is possible with this system, according to Hotz.
Initially, Hotz said the areas south and west of Knoxville, and as far south as Chattanooga, could experience the higher winds and possibility of imbedded tornadoes.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency director James Bassham said, "We've already experienced multiple rounds of severe winter weather in Tennessee, and all indications are we may have an active spring. We can't wait until the tornado is upon us to think about how we protect ourselves from it. We have to prepare now."
Bassham and CBCEMA’s Johnson provided a number of safety tips for residents of Bradley and surrounding counties who could be affected by Thursday’s storm and other severe weather events as spring approaches.
- If at home and a tornado is approaching, go to a basement or storm cellar, away from windows. If neither is available, find shelter under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a work bench or heavy table and hold on to it. A room in the center of the house is usually safer than the outer rooms.
- If at work or school, go to the basement or inside hallway at the lowest level. Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias or large hallways.
- If outdoors, get inside a building, or lie in a ditch or low-lying area. Avoid water-filled ditches. Use your arms to protect head and neck and stay low to the ground.
- Never try to outrun a tornado. If in a vehicle, get out immediately and take shelter in a nearby building, ditch or low-lying area between the vehicle and tornado.
- If in a mobile home, get out and take shelter in a building with a strong foundation or lie in a ditch or low-lying area between the tornado and mobile home.
A copy of the Severe Weather Awareness Guide, from TEMA and NWS, is available at www.srh.noaa.gov/images/ohx/SWAW/SWAW2014.pdf.
The guide contains more severe weather preparedness information and includes a disaster supplies checklist.
Johnson said Wednesday’s drill was a success and warning systems, radios and other elements were in place and checked out well.
Nixle, Facebook and Twitter have been a recent part of the warning systems for emergency management officials.
Nixle is free to Bradley County residents. The service sends an alert to smartphones and email addresses of subscribers. Access to Nixle is available on the CBCEMA website.
CBCEMA Director Troy Spence explained a number of questions regarding severe weather.
“If caught in a thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado, stay alert,” Spence said.
- Be aware if a “Tornado Watch” is in effect.
- Know the difference between a “Tornado Watch” and a “Tornado Warning.”
- A “Watch” means tornadoes may develop. A “Warning” means a tornado has been sighted or indicated on weather radar, or conditions are ideal for producing one. Persons in the path of the tornado should seek shelter immediately.
- Remember, a thunderstorm is capable of producing a tornado with little or no warning.
- The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but they have been known to travel any direction. The speed at which they move over land can vary from 30 mph to 70 mph. Tornadoes can also remain stationary.
One very important thing to remember when threatening weather is present, is to stay close to a news source or weather radio. Heed warnings and follow instructions.
CBCEMA officials are also in the planning stage for an NWS Weather Spotters Training Class scheduled for March 13, at Lee University.
For additional information regarding any aspect of emergency planning, visit the CBCEMA website at www.bradleyco.net and click on the EMA link.