Severe weather no laughing matter

Published 6:10 pm Wednesday, March 8, 2017

When I entered the office on Friday morning and saw the red glow from the office telephone, I knew that at least one voicemail awaited my attention. Since it was Friday, the day after the week’s issue was delivered, I had a pretty good hunch that at least one of the messages would pertain to a copy that didn’t arrive at its destination. Therefore, I knew that I was very likely going to have to call my pal Laurinda in customer service to rectify the situation for the customer. It turned out I was correct on all counts. I then recalled that the tornado drill would take place—siren and all—at 10:07 a.m.

I hatched a plan.

You see, Laurinda works in our Danville office, and I knew she was going to get to hear the Danville siren on cue. And I figured if I waited to call her shortly after 10, she could enjoy Nicholasville’s siren as well over the phone due to our office’s proximity to the source. One siren per ear. “Sirens In Stereo,” I labeled my plan.

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Yes, self-amusement comes easily for me on a Friday morning.

There was no amusement to be had two years ago in April at our house outside of Ord, Nebraska. Nasty weather had been predicted for three days, and the expected degree of nastiness prompted weather spotters and storm chasers from as high up the ladder as The Weather Channel itself to converge on the middle of the state in preparation for what was coming. And it came.

It was late in the afternoon, and all of my staff had been monitoring the weather app of choice on their phones, so the tornado siren wasn’t unexpected. Unwelcome and unwanted, yes, but not unexpected.

Ord is in Valley County, which was named for the fact that it is one big flat valley of mostly cropland. My wife Sarah and I had a house outside of town atop a hill that was known for its view over and across to the other side of the valley several miles to the east. We watched the ominous wall of darkness roll across the land and observed a team of spotters in their vehicle race out of the cloud back toward town on Hwy 11 at a speed that would have earned them a hefty ticket under different circumstances.

Our property damage was light—a few broken tree limbs—as the tornadoes that touched the ground were far enough away from us. Other properties not far to the north and northeast did not fare as well. One thing that I learned from living in Nebraska for over two decades—be it from the three tornadoes that touched down less than five miles from my house, or the dented metal roof, broken windows and ruined vinyl siding courtesy of hail stones larger than my fist—is that weather is to be respected.

Severe weather and warnings of its impending arrival are no laughing matter. We should all appreciate the responsibilities that local emergency crews take on to make sure that warning systems are in place and working and that protocols for handling natural disasters and their aftermath can be executed in a timely and efficient manner.

March 1-7 was Severe Weather Awareness Week in Kentucky. Every year during this week, I have written a column urging everyone to take some time to make or update their household plan for dealing with potential severe weather. Here it is for 2017. Advance notice is an irregular luxury, so that siren may just save your life. Please respect the warnings.