With severe weather in the forecast and it being that time of year again, I thought it would be great to put together some information for everyone. I had a chance to talk with Richard Long. He has served as the Weather Coordinator for Box 100 here in La Vergne for the last 4 years. Box 100 is a non-profit all volunteer organization who assists the La Vergne Fire Department and other city emergency responders during emergencies.
Theresa: Rich you are the Weather Coordinator for Box 100. What does that mean exactly?
Rich: The job in Box 100 I volunteered for when I joined was the Weather Coordinator. The job entails a lot of things like tracking storms and getting information about warnings and damage out to our city workers and residents. Another aspect is community education. I spend a lot of time at our city events promoting storm preparedness and planning. And yet another aspect is talking with our city leaders about way that they can improve the safety of residents. One particular project I was able to save the city $3200.00 a year by researching the best tool for the job. I’m also very proud to represent La Vergne as the Vice President of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the National Weather Association.
Theresa: What this severe weather season is expected to look like based on the recent models?
Rich: Well in the weather world we have a saying “anything more than seven days out is voodoo!” I think the biggest news is we are just about out of winters hold. As the temperature warms though, especially in the April/May timeframe, we see more of a potential for severe weather. We have gotten off to a bit of a late start but I think we will still see some action.
Theresa: When we are put under a WATCH for significant weather (flooding, tornado, severe thunderstorm) what preparations should we begin making?
Rich: The number one thing people need to do when a watch is issued is to stay connected with what is happening. The one pet peeve I have in this universe is the statement I hear most often after a community has been devastated by a tornado is “We had no warning.” There are cases where this is true but the average warning time in the U.S. (from the time the warning is issued to the time it hits the town) is 24 minutes. For 24 minutes warnings were going out on TV, radio, cell phone apps, weather radios, among others. I counter I get to this is often “but most of the time nothing happens.” This is true. National Weather Service has a working group looking for ways to make the system better but at the end of the day, if it is a false alarm, you have been inconvenienced for 20 minutes. If it’s not, the action you take could save your lives and the lives of your kids.
Beyond staying connected make sure that the weather radio is working and has a good battery along with several flashlights and your emergency kit. Make sure you know where your kids and pets are incase you have to take action quickly. I would also recommend all La Vergne residents sign up for Code Red. It’s a free service from the city that will call you with weather warnings. The nice part is the city can also put out information on it as to where disaster shelters are located and other important information. You can sign up for free at www.lavergnetn.gov or at www.box100weather.wordpress.com.
Theresa: What additional preparations do you advise when we are under a WARNING for flooding or thunderstorms?
Rich: When you are under a severe thunderstorm warning make sure you stay inside and keep away from windows. Close the drapes if you can. The main hazards are winds over 58 mph (remember a tropical storm in the gulf has winds above 39 mph), or hail over 1” in diameter. Either of these could break the windows or pick up and throw something that will.
Flooding warnings are a little harder. If you know that your property is prone to flooding then its best to grab your emergency kit and head for higher ground. Make plans ahead of time to go to a friends or relative until the warning is over. If you’re in your car and you come up to a road that’s flooded (Fergus rd. is a good one for this) just turn around and go another way. You can’t judge the depth of the water and many poor folks found out in 2010!
Theresa: In the event of a tornado WARNING, we know to go to the lowest level interior room possible in the building we are in. We know not to get in a car to go somewhere else. What other suggestions do you have?
Rich: Remember the goal is to get as many walls as you can between you and the outside. One great idea I heard was wear a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect your head and the heads of your kids from debris. I have also heard of getting in the bathtub and pulling a mattress over you. My plan is we are lucky enough to have an interior closet so when the watch is issued we prepare it by putting a weather radio, an am/fm radio, flashlights and the first aid kit (among other supplies) so when/if a warning is issued we are ready to go and don’t have to waste time finding things we need.
Theresa: Speaking of supplies, what would you consider a basic weather preparation kit to contain besides a flashlight and a radio?
Rich: Well everyone’s kit will be different but remember to make copies of important documents… especially your homeowners’ insurance policy. If your home is damaged you will need the contact information and policy number. Think about your medications and other things you would need if you had to abandon your home and stay at an emergency shelter. Don’t forget your pet in this process either. What will they need? For more information on kits visit www.ready.gov
Now with that being said one of the common complaints I hear is that kits are expensive. This can be true and I have two suggestions. One is to look around your home for things you already have. You don’t need top quality. Do you go camping? If you do you have most of an emergency kit already
Second would be to go to http://do1thing.com/ and do one activity they suggest a month. Being prepared for disasters and emergencies can seem like a big job. Many people don’t know where to start, so they never start at all. With Do 1 Thing you can take small steps that make a big difference in an emergency. Do 1 Thing is a 12-month program that makes it easy for you to prepare yourself, your family, and your community for emergencies or disasters. I challenge every La Vergne resident to do one of these activities every month for a year!
Theresa: If people have questions how can they contact you?
Rich: they can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at La Vergne Box 100. I’ll be happy to help you any way I can.
We would like to thank Rich for this valuable information. He loves to talk about weather and forecasts so don’t be shy if you have any questions.