Much of Kansas is still digging out from the back-to-major snow storms and feeling about as deep into winter as it gets, but a sure sign of spring arrives this week with Severe Weather Awareness Week, a time dedicated to reminding Kansans that we live in tornado alley and the season of stormy weather is fast approaching.
The National Weather Service, in conjuction with Emergency Management agencies in both Kansas and Missouri will dedicate the week to education about the greatest risks during severe weather season, starting with today (Monday, March 4) as preparedness day.
On Tuesday, tornadoes day, both Kansas and Missouri will practice for tornado response with a statewide drill at 1:30 p.m. Local warning sirens, NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio, and the Emergency Alert System will be activated upon receipt of this warning, to signal the start of the drill. The "TOR" code for EAS and NOAA Weather Radio will be used again this year to simulate what would occur in the event of an actual tornado warning.
Residents should treat the drill as if it were an actual tornado emergency, officials say. The purpose of the annual drill is to test everyone's readiness for life-threatening severe weather events such as tornadoes, flash floods, large hail, and damaging winds.
Wednesday will dedicated to education on flash floods, Thursday will emphasize severe thunderstorms and Friday will be NOAA Weather Radio day.
Kansas State University extension agents and specialists around the state, produced, "Get Financially Prepared – Take Steps Ahead of Disaster" available free online here. Search for MF 3055.
"Last year (Kansas) had a fairly quiet year by severe weather standards, except the deadly tornado that struck Feb. 28 in Harveyville," says Kansas climatologist Mary Knapp. "That storm was still active into Feb. 29 when it spawned a number of lethal tornadoes in states to the east."
Knapp, who is in charge of the state's Weather Data Library based at K-State, said it's difficult to predict storms more than seven to 10 days in advance, but one place citizens can check is the Storm Prediction Center, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Severe Weather Awareness Week is a good reminder that severe weather is a fact of life in Kansas," she said. "It's also a reminder that an emergency kit is a good thing to have not only in case of late winter and springtime severe weather, but in case there's an emergency any time of year."
More information on emergency preparedness is available at the KS Ready website, the Red Cross website, EDEN website or FEMA website.
Kansas weather watchers also remind residents that tornado shelters should also include equipment that is often not included on standard emergency preparation lists. Useful tools to have in the aftermath of a tornado include a pick-axe or crowbar, heavy soled shoes such as hiking boots, blankets and a coach's whistle to alert rescue teams in case you are buried in rubble.