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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2019 Vol. 66 No. 5

Texas Emergency Management Briefs, Tips and Links

RESIDENTS ENCOURAGED TO PLAN FOR, NOT DOWNPLAY SEVERE WEATHER
by Jessica Pounds/features@trcle.com April 24, 2019, for cleburnetimesreview.com

The National Weather Service did not begin keeping organized records of tornadoes in the United States until 1950, but since then there have been 102 tornadoes in Johnson County.

Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore said residents can never be too prepared for severe weather.

Lightning Storm

AccuWeather predicts there will be 1,075 tornadoes across the U.S. in 2019, with the most impact in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

Last week, meteorologists predicted parts of North Texas would experience massive hail storms with the potential for tornadoes, but the severity of it didn't reach Johnson County.

"Aren't we glad it didn't pan out?" Moore said. "Thankfully, Johnson County didn't experience that. But, unfortunately, it does cause people to doubt forecasting or it may make them feel like, 'I shouldn't be as concerned about it this time.' You just really can't let your guard down."

Moore said although weather science is not perfect, it doesn't mean residents should not prepare for what is predicted.

"What are you going to do if you didn't prepare or weren't paying attention to the weather and we had a tornado and you were affected by it?" he said. "We have to resist the temptation to downplay any severe weather forecast this time of year."

AccuWeather predicts there will be 1,075 tornadoes across the U.S. in 2019, with the most impact in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

"We believe that the more traditional severe weather region of the central and southern Plains will have a higher potential for tornadoes and severe weather more frequently than they have experienced on average the past three years," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. "We believe warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures over the Gulf of Mexico will lead to increased moisture transport from the Gulf over the region and ultimately a higher frequency of severe weather in these areas."

Moore said there is not one specific area of Johnson County that is more vulnerable than others.

"From an emergency management perspective, the thing that we get increasingly concerned about as the years go on is that years and years ago, the tornadoes would come through Johnson County and would do no damage because there was a field," he said. "That field is now a baseball park, it is now an apartment complex, or an industry or business.

"With the increase in population, we have an increase in vulnerability in the county that increases the chances that one of these tornadoes will affects people's homes or businesses. Really, there is no place that is safer than any other in the county. The entirety of the county has the potential for damaging winds and tornadoes and hail."

Moore said storm shelters — which are designed to protect residents from violent severe weather — are encouraged across the entire county.

"Flying debris is the No. 1 killer of people during a tornado," he said. "It's not the tornado or the winds itself, it's the things that the wind blow around — 2-by-4s, roofing material, household items. Those are the things that can injure, and unfortunately sometimes do kill people, in a tornado. A storm shelter is designed to stop those flying objects from being able to injure you."

The Johnson County Emergency Management office encourages residents buying a storm shelter to ensure the one they purchase has been rated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"There are two national associations of storm shelter vendors and to be a member of that association, their storm shelters have to have been tested and met a certain criteria, that they will withstand what they claim they will," he said. "If you buy a shelter from one of those associations, then you are guaranteed to have a shelter that has been tested and that's really important."

About six years ago, Moore's office partnered with Johnson County Emergency Services District No. 1 to implement a storm shelter registry program.

"If we were to have a tornado in Johnson County that affected residents we can pull up the addresses that were affected and find out if they had a shelter," he said. "It's rare, but there are times you can get trapped inside because debris gets piled up against the door. It's not very often, but it's happened enough times that having your storm shelter registered will help us know where to look for you if we can't find you. That would be the starting point for first responders to be able to search for you."

Johnson County residents can register their storm shelter through the Emergency Ops Center app, which can be downloaded for free through the Apple App Store or Google Play, or at johnsoncountyfire.org.

For other emergency preparedness items, residents can purchase them tax free Saturday through Monday. April 27-29 is Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday in Texas.

There is no limit on the number of qualifying items you can purchase, and you do not need to issue an exemption certificate to claim the exemption.

For a list of supplies that qualify or do not qualify for a tax exemption, visit comptroller.texas.gov.

"Even if you're not affected by a tornado, high winds can knock out power and be out for a day or two days and everything in your refrigerator goes bad," Moore said. "A generator is a useful thing to have around, even an inexpensive one, because at least you can keep your refrigerator running or give your kids some light in the evening to read books or play games."

(Source: Cleburne Times-Review )

DOG BITE AWARENESS
by Amberly Hildebrant, April 23, 2019, for myhighplains.com/news/studio-4

Most dogs will never bite a person, but it is important to remember that any dog, regardless of breed or type, can bite under certain circumstances. During the last year, dog bite claims have decreased, but still, in 2018, State Farm paid 123-million dollars for more than 3,000 dog bite and injury claims.

The number of dog bite victims filing insurance claims decreased nationally, but Texas moved up in the top 5 rankings last year. According to new State Farm data, the insurer paid $5.8 million dollars on 168 dog-related injury claims in Texas in 2018. Fewer than only California, Illinois and Ohio. The average claim in Texas was $34,800.

Nationally, State Farm paid $123 million dollars for 3,280 dog bite and injury claims, a decrease in the number of claims and amount paid from 2017. "Owning a pet is a big responsibility," State Farm Public Affairs Specialist Heather Paul said. "Dog owners are responsible not only for the health and safety of their pet, but also protecting people from injury."

In 2017, State Farm received 175 claims in Texas and paid $6 million. The average claim was slightly lower at $34,600.

Tips on being a responsible dog owner:

  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet. Children are often bitten by dogs in their own household.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized so it feels at ease around people and other animals
  • Walk and exercise your dog on a leash to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation
  • Regular veterinary visits are essential to regulating the health of your dog. A sick or injured dog is more likely to bite
  • Be alert. If someone approaches you and your dog, caution them to wait before petting the dog. Give your pet time to be comfortable with the stranger
  • Understand and respond to changes in your dogs' body language. Look at the eyes, ears, tail, and posture to know when your dog may be happy, fearful, or angry.

(Source: Studio 4 - Dog Bite Awareness)

ABBOTT DECLARES STATE OF DISASTER FOR COUNTY
by Jo Anne Embleton reporter@jacksonvilleprogress.com, Apr 23, 2019, Weatherford Democrat

CHEROKEE COUNTY – While the Federal Emergency Management Agency deemed the disaster created by April 13 tornadoes as not meeting the threshold for federal assistance, state and county leaders held a different view.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in Cherokee County, as well as in eight other counties, "due to a severe weather event that began on April 12 and has caused widespread and severe property damage and threatens loss of life," according to a decree issued April 17.

"We did everything we could" to meet the FEMA threshold, said Cherokee County Precinct 2 Commissioner Steven Norton, whose jurisdiction is the Alto area. "Monetary damage? There's a short list of things we can claim, but I can't remember the exact criteria, just that we didn't meet their threshold. But we're still working with the state and doing everything we can to get help."

Meanwhile, on April 18, the National Weather Service upgraded the number of tornadoes spawned during storms in Cherokee County two weeks ago to a total of three.

NWS "added a third tornado in Cherokee County to denote two tornadoes with the first storm track and one (tornado) with the second, longer track," according to www.weather.gov. "If a tornado lifts up for more than two miles and then touches down again, it is classified as another tornado, as was the case here."

The initial storm spawned the first tornado, an EF-2 system with an estimated peak wind of 120 miles per hour that cut a swath 400 yards wide for 0.8-mile. It touched down at approximately 11:46 a.m., while a second tornado spawned minutes later, at approximately 11:52 a.m., and is also classified as an EF-2 system. Its path, also 400 yards wide, was 2.5 miles in length.

"With this rare occurrence of two tornadoes crossing paths and hitting the same town in the same day, it made it difficult to decipher damage which occurred from the first tornado with damage that occurred from the second tornado," the report stated.

A third tornado, an EF-3 system packing winds of 160 miles per hour, touched down at approximately 1:20 p.m., cutting a path 880 yards and traveling 29.4 miles from Alto to near Reklaw. It was on the ground almost continuously for approximately 44 miles, according to NWS.

Twenty people were injured, five severely so. A woman taken to the hospital for injuries later died.

(Source: Weatherford Democrat)

FOUR TIPS THAT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE DURING SEVERE WEATHER
by Katie Johnson, April 28, 2019, KWCH12

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Kansans prepare for hail, damaging winds, flooding, and tornadoes each severe weather season and, right now, the state is in the midst of it.

According to the National Weather Service, the United States experiences an average of 1,253 tornadoes each year. Kansas experiences some of the highest numbers of any state with an average of 96 per year, second only to Texas with 155.

Butler County Emergency Manager Keri Khortals says cell service may not always be available when severe weather strikes.

"They're not foolproof. If someone's 100% relying on that cell phone and then they get in an area where they have no signal or they forgot to charge the cell phone or, for whatever reason, that app fails and that was the only thing they were relying on? Then they can be caught unaware," Khortals said.

She says in order to be prepared for severe weather, you need to be proactive. There are other tools people can use when cell phones aren't reliable.

"We want people to have a primary method, a backup method, a backup to the backup, and that may include things like referring to broadcast media, keeping the TV on," Khortals said.

While tornadoes and severe weather can be deadly, there are preventative steps you can take to protect you and your family.

Set up alerts

You should know the difference between severe weather alerts like a tornado watch and a tornado warning. Whenever a warning is in place for your area, take shelter immediately.

  • Outdoor sirens - While sirens can be useful, they are not always the best way to receive tornado warnings, since they are not widespread. Emergency managers recommend setting up more than one alert to severe weather.
  • Local TV - you can expect Eyewitness News to provide continuous on-air coverage during severe weather.
  • Mobile alerts - The Storm Team 12 mobile app for Android and iPhone will send you voiced push alerts whenever there is a severe weather threat in your area. IOS devises also come equipped with wireless emergency alerts that you can turn on in the phone's settings.
  • NOAA Weather Radio - While it may sound old-fashioned, a weather radio will provide you with up-to-date information straight from your nearest National Weather Service forecasting office.

Know the nearest shelter

Depending on the type of severe weather, there are different spaces families should seek shelter in. Starting with tornadoes:

  • Underground - A basement or cellar is the safest place to protect yourself from a tornado's violent winds.
  • First floor interior room - In a home, this place could be a bathroom or closet with no windows. Put as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.

If you live in a mobile home or you are in a vehicle during a tornado warning, you should go to the nearest sturdy building. If reliable shelter is not available, the next best option is to lie in a ditch and protect your head from flying debris.

If you plan to seek shelter in a public building, make sure it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your plans need to work at any time of the day or night.

(Source: KWCH12)

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