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Statewide weather drill set

Thursday, March 8, 2007

According to the National Weather Service (NWS) Missouri experienced a record year with 102 tornadoes in 2006. To help Missouri's citizens prepare for the spring severe weather season, the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the NWS, and local emergency management directors will conduct a statewide severe weather tornado drill at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 13.

According to the National Weather Service, Missouri experiences an average of 28 tornadoes every year. In the last several years, Missouri exceeded the average number of tornadoes. Missouri experienced 102 tornadoes in 2006, 32 tornadoes in 2005, 69 tornadoes in 2004, and 84 in 2003.

"Being prepared to respond to a natural disaster is everyone's responsibility. I encourage every school, citizen and business to participate in the statewide tornado drill and practice seeking secure, safe shelter during this exercise," said Ronald M. Reynolds, director of Missouri's State Emergency Management Agency.

The drill takes less than 15 minutes to perform. Once the severe weather announcement is made, citizens are asked to seek shelter in the lowest level (basement if possible) interior room away from windows. Schools and businesses might seek shelter in basements, hallways or under staircases. The drill also highlights the importance of accounting for everyone in your home, class or office.

The NWS Pleasant Hill, Springfield, St. Louis, Paducah, Davenport and Memphis offices will initiate the statewide tornado drill exercise using the NOAA Weather Warning System, which also ties into the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Missouri Broadcasters are supporting the use of EAS for the statewide tornado drill.

Weather tone alert radios, and the EAS system will broadcast the tornado drill message over radios and televisions stations. Local emergency management directors will activate outdoor warning sirens for this drill.

If Missouri is experiencing statewide severe weather conditions, the National Weather Service will hold the statewide drill on the backup date, 1:30 p.m., Thursday, March 15.

Remember: Tornado watch means watch the sky. Tornado warning means seek shelter immediately.

Seeking shelter: If at home, school or work, go immediately to an interior room with no windows on the lowest possible floor. If you are at school or work do not go to a cafeteria, gymnasium or large interior open space because the roof might collapse. If in a mobile home, leave it immediately -- seek shelter in a nearby building or in a ditch.

Driving: Take shelter in a nearby building, in a ditch or low-lying area away from the car. If you are outside, remember to cover your head with your arms, coat or blanket to protect yourself from flying debris. Never try to out drive a tornado.

Overpasses are not safe: An overpass' under-the-girder-type construction can cause a dangerous wind tunnel effect. This may cause the winds to be stronger and more focused underneath. This can also cause the overpass to be a collector of debris.

Flash flooding or water on the road: During a thunderstorm be aware that low-lying areas are prone to flash flooding. Never drive into water on the road. If your the stalls, get out of the car immediately and seek higher ground. It takes less than two feet of water to make a car float. Once floating downstream, a car can overturn trapping the occupants.

A Flash Flood watch is issued when the meteorologist expects rainfall to be heavy enough to produce flash flooding.

A Flash Flood warning is issued when flash flooding is imminent or already in progress. If you are in its path, move to higher ground immediately.

Thunderstorms may produce flash floods. Stay out of dry creek beds during thunderstorms. If you live near a river or stream, listen for flash flood warnings.

Lightning -- outside safety: Immediately get inside a building or a car. If you must stay outside, keep away from metal, like golf carts, motorcycles, fences, metal lines or pipes. Stay below ground level, away from hilltops, open beaches or fields. And most importantly, stay away from open water. Duck and cover your head to lessen your chance of being struck by lightening.

Lightning - inside safety: Each year lightning kills more Americans than tornadoes or hurricanes. If you are inside a building, or even a car, your chances of being struck by lightning are slim. For personal safety, stay away from windows, floor vents, and electronic equipment, especially the telephone or computer.

To view the entire spring severe weather awareness campaign go to the SEMA webpage: http://sema.dps.mo.gov/semapage.htm and click on the March statewide tornado drill March 13, 2007 link.

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