On Thursday, a few days before the start of Severe Weather Preparedness Week, Duane Davis already had his eyes on radars.
The National Weather Service was calling for thunderstorms with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour and had issued a tornado watch for the area.
As director of Jackson County Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security, it’s Davis’ job to be prepared for a weather emergency and share information with the public on what to do and how to stay safe.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery
Severe weather can strike at any time, and Seymour and Jackson County are no strangers to the destructive power of Mother Nature.
In recent years, residents have experienced the aftermath of damaging thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding.
Last year, Indiana saw 12 tornadoes, one being in Jackson County that damaged one home and took out power lines in Grassy Fork Township, Davis said.
Since there is an increased threat for these conditions in the springtime, Sunday through March 23 has been designated Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Indiana. The first official day of spring is Wednesday.
Each day focuses on a different topic, including severe weather outlooks and watches, warnings, response, recovery and building a weather-ready nation.
The annual campaign is conducted to educate people about the hazards of severe weather and to help everyone be prepared when it occurs, Davis said.
It’s important to understand the difference when a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch is issued versus a warning.
A watch means hazardous weather may occur and people should watch for information and review their safety plans. Watches are typically issued hours and sometimes days in advance.
A warning is when a weather hazard is imminent or reported and requires immediate action to protect life and property, Davis said.
If a tornado warning is issued, the best place to be is the lowest level of a building, such as a basement or in an interior room with no windows such as a closet. Those who live in mobile homes should have relocated to a safer spot before a warning goes out, Davis said.
If you are in a vehicle or outside and can’t make it to a shelter, it’s recommended to get out and lie in a ditch.
There are many ways to receive weather reports and alerts, including cell phone apps, television, radio and computers.
“The technology has greatly improved to where people will be getting this information so early on, it prepares them to make plans around a potential weather event,” he said.
Davis recommends people sign up at member.everbridge.net/index/892807736721670#/login for the countywide notification system that sends texts, voicemails and emails to recipients about weather events and other emergencies in the area.
“We have about 1,500 people signed up now, but I would like to see that number triple,” he said.
He also has set up a Jackson County Weather Facebook page, where he posts weather-related information and allows people to share what they are seeing when it comes to the weather.
One other tool Davis encourages every household to have is a weather alert radio, which is important if severe weather happens at night when people are sleeping, he said.
Davis also said people should keep an emergency preparedness kit in their homes and cars that include food and water, flashlights and batteries, a battery-powered radio, a first aid kit, medications, a multipurpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of personal documents, extra cash, a blanket and baby and/or pet items.
“Having an emergency to-go pack for any type of situation is ideal,” he said.
To help people better understand severe weather, the National Weather Service is conducting a Skywarn weather spotter training class at 6 p.m. today at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 504 N. Walnut St., Seymour.
The two-hour class is free and open to the public and is sponsored by Jackson County EMA and the Department of Homeland Security.
“A lot of people are curious about weather, but they don’t have a full understanding,” Davis said.
An instructor from the National Weather Service will go over cloud formations, how and why they form, updrafts and microbursts and other weather-related phenomenon, Davis said.
“They show videos of different storms and walk you through it,” he said. “They usually try to use real pictures and videos of recent storms that have moved through Indiana.”
Anyone interested in learning more about severe weather and how to submit reports to the National Weather Service should attend.
Another way people can make sure they are prepared for severe weather is to take part in the statewide tornado drill at 10:15 a.m. and 7:15 p.m. Tuesday. At that time, the tornado sirens in Seymour and throughout Jackson County will go off.
The test gives schools, businesses and families the opportunity to practice their weather emergency response plans, Davis said.
Besides taking care of yourself and your family, Davis said it’s important to reach out to others in the community that may be impacted by the weather.
“We can be a strong, resilient community by helping our neighbors,” he said. “That’s what Jackson County is known for.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Anyone interested in becoming a trained volunteer weather spotter for the National Weather Service is invited to attend a Skywarn weather spotter training class from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 504 N. Walnut St., Seymour.
Skywarn spotters coordinate with local emergency management officials and send reports of weather-based phenomena.
The class is for first responders and the public who want to learn how severe thunderstorms and tornadoes form, what to look for in the sky and other severe weather-related information.
The class is sponsored by Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.
Information: 812-358-6110; [email protected]
[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
A statewide tornado drill will be conducted Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.
At that time, the tornado sirens in Seymour and throughout Jackson County will go off.
In the event of severe weather that day, the test will be postponed to Wednesday.
The test gives schools, businesses and families the opportunity to practice their weather emergency response plans.