Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't let down your guard

Two weeks ago, my hometown of Harveyville took a direct hit from an EF-2 tornado.  It was one of my worst nightmares: a tornado striking town, at night, with no official NWS tornado warning proceeding the event.

This was the same storm Brandon Ivey had chased in Reno County, spotting a tornado while live on KWCH. We tracked the storm after it left Reno County, as it moved through Harvey, Marion, Chase and Morris County.  As the storm moved inched closer to home, I had a mental note to call my family should it continue to be tornado-warned.   About a half-hour out from Harveyville, the tornado threat appeared to have diminished, so the National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning.  As we got closer to our 9 p.m. broadcast, I was working hard to get Brandon's tornado video on the air.  I honestly took my eye off the storm heading toward Harveyville, noting that Mom and Dad's Weather Alert radio would let them know about it.  (It did.)

Close to 9 p.m. though, the storm rapidly intensified and produced a short-lived, fast-moving tornado that plowed through the south part of my hometown at around 9:03 p.m.

About a half-hour later, when I got confirmation of damage from my family, I felt tremendous guilt.  "I could have called them" I later told my wife.  The area was still in a Tornado Watch.  How many times in my career have I used this phrase?  "Severe Thunderstorms can and occasionally produce tornadoes with little or no warning."

So my message to you this Spring is clear: DON'T LET DOWN YOUR GUARD!  Whenever severe weather is approaching, please take the advise of your friendly meteorologist and take appropriate measures to insure your safety.  If there's a severe storm that's heading toward your home and your community is under a Tornado Watch, keep a close eye on it.  Better yet, even if there isn't a watch out, be ready to move to shelter at a moment's notice.  My folks only had seconds to scramble to an interior bathroom as the windows shattered in the house.

Here's a great link to some important severe weather safety information.  I highly urge you to read it and prepare...now!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Harveyville thoughts and a belated Thanks

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last week and a half, you might have heard about my hometown of Harveyville, Kansas getting hit by a tornado late Tuesday evening, February 28th.  I was overwhelmed by the response from viewers, writing emails and posting comments on Facebook and Twitter.  I was floored by the kind thoughts and words from folks at church and at my daughter's school.  But most of all, I was amazed by the Kansas spirit I saw in the two days I spent at home helping with the clean up.  I met up with family members, old friends and plenty of volunteers who donated time and equipment to help the community.  A good friend and former roommate dropped by Thursday afternoon to help out too.  A gentleman from Rose Hill stopped by, a complete stranger to the community.  He wanted to help and wrote a one hundred dollar check to my folks.  Simply amazing.  

In two days time, my parent's yard went from a disaster area to nearly back to normal (minus a couple of trees, the fence, a porch, a roof and a garage of course).  It will take some time for things to return to normal but the recovery process is indeed underway.  To everyone who helped out, or offered encouragement and support: Thank you!

Sadly, the storm claimed one life: that of our next door neighbor.  He and his wife was in the process of taking shelter when the storm hit.  Given that the tornado struck at night, was moving at a high rate of speed (around 75 mph!) and struck without an official Tornado Warning from the National Weather Service, folks back home didn't have much time to react.  Let me be clear though, there was a warning out for that part of the county (a Severe Thunderstorm Warning) and the area was in a Tornado Watch  Next week, during Severe Weather Awareness Week, I will talk more about this subject and why it's important to be vigilant when any severe weather is approaching.