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Pensacola, FL, tornado, February 2016

+Comments from Emergency Managers and FEMA

  • What does the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) think of StormReady?
  • Harvard University, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University is a StormReady site. I would very much appreciate it if you would communicate to the board how valuable we have found the StormReady program and thank them for their efforts. I wholeheartedly support the program and have tried to encourage other colleges and universities to participate. As an FYI, I have submitted a piece for the IAEM Bulletin about our interaction with the StormReady program. The StormReady program can truly be adapted to work in almost any environment. And while the program has an obvious severe weather emphasis, the benefits of participation in terms of communication and coordination can be seen in response to any type of threat. I have found it is really an all-hazards preparedness approach to natural hazards.
  • Director, Emergency Management Fire Rescue, Wayne County, FL: The fast action by the National Weather Service Jacksonville Weather Center to predict the tornado was the top reason we had no fatalities in Screven. The Hero award should go to you and your staff. On that March afternoon we were warned early by the Jacksonville Weather Center that we would be receiving severe weather. As the afternoon progressed we received notice of the storm approaching from the southwest and west. We knew from your reports that it could be a rough day for our county at least 2 hours ahead of time through our StormReady receiving capabilities.Then as the storm entered our area we received tornado warnings in time for the public to take action to seek apprppriate shelter. I feel that if it was not for our county being StormReady and the very fast and efficient action of our local Jacksonville Weather Center that the story of no fatalities would have been much different. We owe your staff a great deal for having the foreknowledge to have Wayne County obtain the enhancements to be StormReady. Thanks for all you and your staff do for us.
  • Fire Chief, Fire-Rescue Department Oldsmar, FL: I wanted to share with you that the City of Oldsmar just received notification that its Insurance Service Offices CRS flood rating was lowered from a seven to a six. This will mean additional savings to Oldsmar residents on their annual flood insurance premiums. The StormReady designation was critical in that the city made the class six by 31 points, 25 of which were from the Storm Ready recognition!! I wanted you to know how much I appreciated your assistance as we went through the StormReady application process and the fact that you folks worked hard to get cities into the Storm Ready designation program.
  • Emergency Manager, Williston, ND: Williston has been a StormReady community for several years. The signs we posted are something people see at key locations in town. The signs raise their interest in the program and have to give them some comfort. Also a benefit for meeting the requirements of a StormReady community is the increased level of awareness and safety for the community.
  • Fire Chief, Denison, IA: The firefighters in Denison that have spent countless hours training and storm spotting now feel their work has been recognized. A little recognition goes a long way, but a distinguished recognition such as this is amazing. After the signs were up, City Hall received several phone calls asking what being "StormReady" meant. After it was explained, callers said it made them feel “safer.” This designation has shown that Denison is ready for a storm.”
  • Emergency Management, Brown County, SD: By participating in the StormReady program it gives you a yard stick to measure just how prepared you are. It shows you the areas that you need to improve in and also shows you your strong points.
  • Emergency Management, Monroe County, IN: In my talking points I always bring up that Monroe County is a StormReady Community. It helps me in my presentation when talking to the public about severe weather. This is a program that all counties in Indiana should have and it would benefit the entire state.
  • Disaster and Emergency Services, Lewis and Clark County, MT: StormReady helped Lewis and Clark County upgrade its Community Rating System (CRS) rating from a 9 to an 8, which means a 10% discount in NFIP flood insurance premiums. It also provided the impetus for the county to provide NOAA Weather Radios to 50 public buildings in Helena, East Helena, and the rest of the county, including 23 schools. I heartily endorse the program and remain a strong supporter of StormReady.
  • Emergency Management, Madison County, IN: I can only tell you that it has helped us obtain funds from the E-911 fund to replace equipment that was damaged by lightning. When I mentioned that this was tied directly to our StormReady and StormNet program, funds were allocated and equipment was immediately replaced. I think StormReady is one of the best efforts the NWS has accomplished and I would certainly support its continuation.
  • Emergency Manager, Oneida County, WI: StormReady reminds and educates citizens what to look for and/or what to do prior to or during an emergency event, helps clarify weather terminology (watch vs. warning), and helps citizens feel safer knowing that EM and NWS are consistently monitoring the weather and educating the public (via press releases, interviews, etc.).
  • Emergency Manager, Columbia County, GA: In addition to creating a great sense of pride and peace of mind among our citizenry, Columbia County's private and public sectors agencies have initiated numerous other "StormReady" type actions that have greatly enhanced our program. StormReady's been a great program for Columbia County and continues to grow!
  • Morrow County, OR: The main benefit of the process is a greatly improved capability to respond in case we face a weather emergency. We now have a plan (it is an appendix to our omnibus web-based Morrow County response plan), expanded alert and notification capabilities, and a better understanding of our threat areas and response/recovery capabilities.
  • Emergency Manager, Encinitas, CA: The chief benefit in our case is a greater recognition by citizens and city officials of the impact that severe weather events have on our city and how the city has improved its readiness level by following the StormReady guidelines criteria. Our citizens have benefited particularly from the public education component of the program.
  • Emergency Manager, Red Cross, Monroe County, IN: As Emergency Services Director for the Monroe County Red Cross, charged with community education, I realize a lot of benefit from the StormReady program. I proudly display the StormReady sign and mention the program in nearly every presentation I do. I sincerely hope that the NWS intends to continue this very fine program.
  • Emergency Manager, Stutsman County, ND: StormReady gives me a set of guidelines to follow that help me create and maintain a comprehensive warning system. These guidelines help standardize the way warning information is received and disseminated at the local level, making it less confusing to the public. StormReady gives the public a better sense of security knowing that local warning procedures follow these national guidelines.
  • Emergency Management, Hamilton County, IN: StormReady is a program that sets the standard. It caused us to improve our local storm warning capability in order to reach or exceed that standard and qualify as a StormReady County. Hamilton County is a safer place since we elected to participate in the StormReady program.
  • Emergency Management, Johnson County, IN: I think StormReady has helped make our County more aware of the weather in general. We have more people attending the Storm Spotters program, and we have a list of people wanting to be involved in the CERT program.
  • Emergency Manager, Lincoln County, WI: Media coverage related to the StormReady designation was fantastic. The community was most definitely made aware of severe weather preparedness and how important planning and preparedness are. The most important benefit: an increased level of awareness in the importance of emergency management planning and preparedness in our community.
  • Science Trainer, Madison County IN: StormReady has given recognition to our long-established program in Madison County. This, in turn, has made it easier for public officials to fund our operations. It has also given us some leverage with officials, especially in the smaller towns, to improve their ability to sound warnings. I urge the National Weather Service to continue this program.
  • Champaign County, IL: The biggest benefit was to show the County Board we are doing something. Our spotters are proud of the StormReady recognition as we could not do this with out them.
  • Wallowa County, OR: Wallowa County has benefited as a participant in the StormReady program by an increased awareness of severe weather events, enhancing community-wide severe weather notification, and continued training and education of storm spotters within the local community. Storm spotters, are receiving severe weather observation training and educational materials, who then feed back information to the NWS Pendleton forecast, potentially helping to save property and lives ahead of severe weather events.
  • Disaster and Emergency Service, Beaverhead County, MT: StormReady creates an awareness for the NWS and local Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) that weather does have impacts on communities. StormReady educates the people of the community that DES/EM does have active disaster and emergency plans and it gives local DES/EM guidelines and goals to improve their disaster and emergency program.


How StormReady Made a Difference: Success Stories

Below are examples of how StormReady has made a difference in communities like yours.

+Bay County, FL, Emergency Services Recognized with StormReady Hero Award

NWS Tallahassee, FL, presented Joby Smith, Frankie Lumm, and Scott Warner of Bay County, FL, Emergency Services with the StormReady® Hero Award for their contributions to life-saving efforts before, during and after Major Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

Several days before landfall, Bay County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) staff, an NWS StormReady partner,  declared a state of emergency, issued evacuation orders and activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC), actions they had prepared for as a StormReady county.

EMA staff asked NWS Tallahassee to send a meteorologist to work at the EOC to assist with preparation and response decisions. In addition, NWS provided  regular briefings and consultation on the severity and timing of hazards as Hurricane Michael rapidly intensified. The severity of the hurricane spurred EMA staff to request  unconventional use of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Typically, WEA are short cell phone notifications of imminent hazards, such as tornadoes.  In this case, the alert urged residents not heeding evacuation orders to flee coastal areas in the hours leading up to landfall.

In addition to the WEA, Bay County EMA staff pushed warning messages out through its Alert Bay emergency notification system, made phone calls, sent text messages and emails, and even went door to door in the most vulnerable areas. As a result of these exceptional efforts, approximately 210 of the 260 residents who originally chose to stay in their homes in Mexico Beach fled inland, limiting the county’s direct death toll to 4.

The unconventional use of emergency messaging continued during the recovery phase because the hurricane had severely damaged the communications network. The EMA requested multiple statewide WEAs to inform at-risk residents where to find food, water and shelter, undoubtedly saving additional lives. Given Michael’s historic strength, NWS felt these extraordinary efforts deserved this rare honor. NWS Southern Region Director Stephen Cooper helped present the award at a ceremony that included numerous state officials and local community leaders.

StormReady Hero Award recipients “demonstrate a clear and unambiguous evidence of proactive actions beyond normal duties, resulting in lives saved in the impacted community.” These proactive actions include:

  • Detecting the hazard
  • Receiving NWS warnings
  • Disseminating warnings to the at-risk community
  • Convincing at-risk residents to take action

This Hero Award, first bestowed upon Van Wert County, OH, in 2002 has only been awarded eight times since StormReady’s inception.

+StormReady Success Story, May 22, 2020, Bowie, TX, Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm Event

At approximately 9 pm on Friday, May 22, 2020, a line of severe thunderstorms impacted the City of Bowie, TX, a National Weather Service (NWS) StormReady site, with torrential rain, flash flooding, large hail, high winds, and an EF-1 tornado. While all areas of the city were impacted to some degree, the downtown area and the south side of town received the most damage. An NWS Storm Survey Team determined the intensity of tornado damage resulted from 90 to 95 mph winds. Thunderstorm high winds in the 70-80 mph range caused extensive damage elsewhere.

Thankfully, there were no deaths or significant injuries thanks to the unified StormReady efforts of the NWS Dallas/Fort Worth forecast office and the Montague County emergency management team. In Bowie proper, all commercial electrical power was out. Large tree trunks were snapped, and many trees were uprooted. Much of this tree debris fell onto homes, resulting in roof and structural damage. The storm caused additional light structural damage to many commercial buildings within Bowie. Damage was estimated to be over $1.5 million.

The Montague County Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC) and the Montague Emergency Communications Team (MECT) began preparing for this severe weather event 3 days prior by tracking the NOAA Storm Prediction Center’s daily Convective Outlooks. On May 22, the County EMC closely monitored and relayed severe thunderstorm watches and warnings in the area to residents of Montague County using the i-Info Communications system and social media.

The day of the storms, the Bowie Independent School District (ISD) contacted the MECT to discuss the weather outlook for the Senior Class Graduation scheduled for that evening at the Bowie High School football stadium. MECT consulted NWS Fort Worth via NWSChat for guidance. Based on that discussion, Bowie ISD decided to delay and then postpone High School Graduation until the next morning.

As the line of storms approached Bowie, members of the MECT remained in close contact with the NWS Dallas/Fort Worth forecast office using NWSChat. As conditions in the area deteriorated, the NWS issued a Tornado Warning at 8:27 pm. The city’s recently modernized outdoor warning sirens were activated by the Bowie Police Department. This warning provided the residents of Bowie and the surrounding area approximately 30 minutes to seek shelter.

"Things went well that night in a very large part due to the efforts of the National Weather Service Dallas/Fort Worth forecast office. The thirty minutes warning lead time we received from the NWS and using our recently updated outdoor warning sirens no doubt saved lives. The StormReady program deserves credit as well. The NWS deserves our undying gratitude for what they do to protect our community. "

- Kirk Higgins, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Director, Bowie, TX referring to NWS support during the May 22, 2020 tornado and severe thunderstorm event.


+Port of Corpus Christi Emergency Manager, Danielle Hale, Receives Recognition as NOAA StormReady Hero

Corpus Christi, TX – NOAA presented the StormReady Community Hero Award to Danielle Hale, Port of Corpus Christi Emergency Manager, on Thursday April 5, 2018.  The award was presented by Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service at a ceremony at the Congressman Solomon Ortiz International Center in downtown Corpus Christi. The StormReady Community Hero award formally recognizes people within a StormReady community for exemplary leadership that saved lives during extreme weather events.

NOAA awarded the StormReady Community Hero to Danielle Hale, Emergency Manager with the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, for taking decisive actions that saved lives when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August last year.  Harvey made landfall on August 25, 2017, just northeast of Corpus Christi as a Category 4 hurricane – with sustained winds greater than 130 mph. Hurricane force winds and storm surge 6-10 feet above ground level caused widespread damage along the mid-Texas coastline, including the Port of Corpus Christi.

Hale’s actions helped protect her community during Harvey’s landfall and helped them rebound quickly after the storm passed. She activated the community’s emergency operations plan well in advance of the storm, remained in continuous communication with all Port partners and employees, and closed the nation’s 4th largest port, actions that allowed for the timely evacuation of nearly every vessel and all non-essential employees. After the storm, Hale ensured the safety and security of all essential port personal and facilities by assisting with search and rescue, damage assessments and restoration activities. Hale’s actions allowed the port to reopen in a record six days, with no fatalities.

Hale tenaciously worked to protect her community while her own family was displaced when Harvey destroyed their home.

“Hurricane Harvey left an impact in its wake that will forever change our Coastal Bend Region,” said Charles Zahn, Port of Corpus Christi Commission Chair.  “The widespread catastrophic damage affected lives throughout our community including many of those who keep our Port moving.  Danielle Hale and her family lost their home to Hurricane Harvey all while her role as the Port of Corpus Christi Manager of Emergency Management ensured our community and Port were ready to weather the storm.  We are proud of Danielle, her leadership, and her designation as a NOAA StormReady Community Hero.”

“Danielle’s actions exemplify the hard work and dedication of all emergency managers. I am honored to present her with this award for her heroic actions that directly saved lives when Hurricane Harvey struck her community,” Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., Director of NOAA’s National Weather Service said. “The vital partnerships between the National Weather Service and emergency managers is a critical part of building a Weather-Ready Nation.”

Hale is the seventh recipient of the StormReady Community Hero award since its inception in 2002, and the first award recipient for actions taken to save lives during a catastrophic hurricane landfall.

+StormReady Label Proves Correct for Ohio County during Tornado Outbreak

To earn an NWS StormReady designation, Van Wert County, OH, placed a series of warning alert systems in public locations, including the movie theater destroyed in a storm outbreak that killed 35 people.

Quick action by Van Wert Cinemas manager Scott Shaffer and his staff got more than 50 adults and children out of theaters in the multiplex and into safer conditions in a hallway and restrooms. Minutes later a tornado tore off the building's roof and tossed cars into the screen and front seats where minutes earlier kids and parents had been watching "The Santa Clause 2."

"This story illustrates a great success for the NWS, NOAA Weather Radio and StormReady programs," said NWS Headquarters Warning Coordination Meteorologist Program Manager Stephan Kuhl. "It also illustrates the importance of establishing a close working relationship between our local NWS offices, our emergency management partners, and ultimately the communities that we serve!"

The theater office was equipped with a Federal Signal Corporation local warning alert system called the "Informer." The "Informer" is activated via a digitally-encoded pager signal that automatically turns the unit on and sounds an alert. The theaters unit was tied directly into the Van Wert County siren system and activated immediately once the Van Wert County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) sounded the warning sirens. The unit then remains open for "live" broadcasts by the emergency manager until the reset button is hit.

The Van Wert County EOC received the NWS Tornado Warning via a NOAA Weather Radio receiver tuned to the Fort Wayne, Indiana NWR transmitter frequency. Van Wert County Emergency Manager, Rick McCoy, received the warning and immediately activated the city of Van Wert siren warning system. McCoy also broadcast the NWS Tornado Warning and action statement live over the "Informer."

Seventy of the alert units and a number of NOAA Weather Radio receivers were purchased with grant money by Van Wert County Emergency Management as one of the requirements to become StormReady. Van Wert County was designated StormReady by WFO Northern Indiana on January 10, 2002.

"If we hadn't gone through the StormReady process gotten our warning system in place before this storm, a lot of people would not have gotten the warning, and we could have lost many more lives," McCoy said. "All communities across the country need to look at becoming StormReady, because at some point they're going to have severe weather of some kind. People shouldn't say 'it can't happen here,' because it can."

The tornado touched down in Van Wert County with 13 minutes lead time. The tornado struck the movie theater 28 minutes after the warning was issued. McCoy also broadcast the NWS Tornado Warning and action statement live over the "Informer."

A special award ceremony was held to recognized the outstanding service of those involved in the tornado warning.

+Dickinson County, IA, StormReady Status Credited with Minimizing Disaster

On July 17, 2010, Dickinson County, IA, was struck by damaging winds. Thankfully no one lost their lives or was injured during the storm. Many residents and the emergency manager credited the NWS for the advance warning. Local media credited NWS along with the county being StormReady as the main reasons why there were no casualties.

Dickinson County, IA, tornado debris

A storm survey conducted by NWS Sioux Falls, SD, which covers this part of Iowa, documented widespread damage across most of the "Great Lakes" area of Dickinson County in northwest Iowa. The greatest amount of damage occurred along a line from Montgomery to Triboji, and finally to West Okoboji. Most of the damage was done to trees and boats, but also a few farm out buildings and storage sheds were either severely damaged or destroyed. All of the damage that occurred was a result of very strong winds associated with a severe thunderstorm that moved through the area Saturday evening, July 17 from 10:15 pm to 11:30 pm CDT. Sustained winds of 50 to 60 mph, along with gusts to 80 to 100 mph occurred for a prolonged period of time. In some cases, residents reported experiencing these strong winds for 20 minutes. Despite the strong winds and all of the damage that occurred, there were no deaths or injuries reported to local authorities.

Warnings were issued for this area of Dickinson County beginning at 10:04 PM CDT Saturday evening and continued through 11:40 PM CDT. Numerous residents reported hearing the warnings and took shelter before the storm hit and credited the National Weather Service in issuing the life-saving warnings.

The Great Lakes area of northwest Iowa is a very popular vacation location for people all around the Midwest. On weekends, the population of this area increases dramatically with many people enjoying water recreational activities. Besides being a popular area for vacations, the Great Lakes area including Dickinson county, has been recognized by the National Weather Service as being a StormReady community and county. In order for a community or county to be recognized as StormReady, there are a number of requirements that need to be met by the community or county. A few examples include having outdoor warning sirens or other methods to notify residents of warnings, as well as working closely with the National Weather Service.

+Birmingham Office Provides Key Decision Support Services

Auburn University campus and stadiumOn any given football game day, Auburn University becomes the fifth largest city in Alabama as Jordan Hare Stadium holds over 87,000 people. As a result, any severe weather event can place the fans and visitors in a dangerous situation. On Saturday, September 19, West Virginia was scheduled to play football at Auburn University. The weather forecast showed the increasing possibility of strong to severe thunderstorms in the Auburn area around the scheduled kickoff time of 6:45 p.m. Due to the urgent threat to public safety, Lead Forecaster Ken Lorek directly informed Chance Corbett of Auburn University Emergency Management of the impending danger at the stadium.

According to Corbett, "With storms approaching the stadium close to kick-off time, Ken confirmed our radar observations and took it a step further. Ken said that he was sure that lightning would come directly over Auburn University, but, even if it didn't, we were going to see a rain like no other. He said the rain would come down hard and in large amounts and that high winds would accompany it. Based on Ken's decision support service, the decision was then made to postpone the game due to lightning. We took over the stadium public address system and asked the spectators to seek shelter due to approaching severe storms and lightning."

"This was a critical decision, as never in the history of Auburn University football (over 100 years) has a game been postponed or an announcement made directing fans to seek shelter due to weather. Our game day control team was prepared to make such announcements but needed to make sure that the information we were receiving was timely and accurate."

Alburn University control booth looking at stadium field"The rain and the lightning came almost to the minute that Ken told us it would. The rain entered the stadium from the south and soon began to fall so heavily that it was hard to see the stands across the field. Lightning began to strike all around the stadium and appeared to be very close. We made the right decision and the help we received from your office was invaluable. We are proud to say that we had no reports of people that were injured due to the severe weather incident."

Due to accurate information from the Birmingham Office and trust from Emergency Management, another decision was made once again to postpone the kickoff of a game due to lightning just seven days later.

Corbett stated, "I can't express to you how much we appreciate the support that we received from the Birmingham office and continue to receive every day. As one of the most recent recipients of the designation, StormReady University, I can say that we are very serious about severe weather preparedness at Auburn University."

According to Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist-in-Charge, "These types of decision support efforts are keeping our office on the forefront of relevancy and service to our many customers across central Alabama."

+Magoffin officials get national award for life-saving efforts during tornado

Magoffin StormReady hero award ceremonyMAGOFFIN COUNTY, KY. (WYMT) - Two county officials and two stories of heroism.

The National Weather Service honored Magoffin County Judge Executive Charles 'Doc' Hardin and Deputy Judge Executive/Emergency Management Director Mike Wilson for their life-saving efforts during the March 2 tornado outbreak. They tell two incredible stories from a night many in Magoffin County will never forget.

"My truck was shaking. I said 'this is not good.' By the time I got to the BP on the parkway it was there. Everything was flying, but I knew I had to get to the other side," Wilson recounted. "I have a 10-year-old daughter and she said 'you can't go out, Daddy,' and I stooped down to where she was and I said 'you go downstairs and you take care of your momma. This is my job,'" said Hardin. As the monster tornado dropped onto Salyersville the two officials sprang into action warning people to take shelter. "Didn't think nothing of it. Just tried to save lives," said Wilson.

Their actions did not go unnoticed. On Tuesday the National Weather Service honored the men with StormReady Community Hero Awards, crediting them with saving the lives of nearly 50 people. "It's humbling because all I was doing was doing my job," said Wilson. But they say what is more impressive is they way their community stuck together since that night. "We're a family," said Hardin. While there are still signs of the devastation that March tornado left behind, many businesses and homes have rebuilt from the ground up, and community leaders say they are proud of the way their county has come back. "I don't think this community will ever be the same again. I think it's better," said Hardin.

They call it a blessing not a single life was lost in Magoffin County. "March the 2nd can be a day of thanksgiving instead of a day of mourning in Magoffin County," said Hardin. Many say it is all thanks to them. The StormReady Community Hero award is a national award. This is only the seventh time the award has been given.