Pott. County emergency manager offers safety tips for tornado season

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Approaching storm clouds on Coker Road. SNS FILE PHOTO

With tornado season here, Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Chad Larman offered some tips for communities to stay safe in the event of severe weather.

Know where shelter is during tornado season

Larman said one of the first things people should do if there is a tornado is find a safe place to stay during the storm.

"If you do not have a storm shelter or safe room, go to the most interior room in your home or building you are in and put as many walls as you can between you and the outside," Larman said.

He explained people should put blankets or a mattress over themselves.

Everyone should also put on their shoes or be sure they are readily available.

"If you're at home and severe weather is bearing down, prepare for the worst," Larman said. "If your house is damaged by a tornado, you could end up walking through debris that's riddled with nails, glass shards and splintered wood."

Larman also said if people own a helmet of any kind they should wear it.

"Be sure to put it on during a severe storm. It could save you from life-threatening head trauma if your home suffers a direct hit," Larman said.

In addition, Larman said people shouldn't leave their houses and attempt to drive away from a tornado.

"If you made it home, stay there. Tornadoes can shift their path, and even if you think you're directly in the line of the storm, being inside shelter is safer than being inside a car," Larman said.

He explained traffic jams could keep people from getting out of the storm's path and a small wobble could send the storm in a different direction.

Know severe weather terms during tornado season

It's also important to know severe weather terms.

Larman said a severe thunderstorm watch means conditions are conducive to the development of severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area.

"These storms produce hail of three-fourth inch in diameter and wind gusts of at least 58 mph," Larman said.

He said a tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes in and around the watch area.

"People in the affected areas are encouraged to be vigilant in preparation for severe weather," Larman said.

The emergency manager explained a tornado warning means meteorologists have spotted a tornado or one has been indicated on radar.

"When a tornado warning has been issued, people in the affected area are strongly encouraged to take cover immediately," Larman said.

Stay informed during tornado season

Lastly, Larman said people need to make sure they have three ways to receive extreme weather and tornado warnings.

"Have a weather radio, watch the news channels, download a weather radio app on your smart phone or sign up for to receive alerts from Pottawatomie County Emergency Management," Larman said.

Go to www.pottawatomiecountyok.com and scroll down to the CodeRed banner to sign up.

There is one community storm shelter in the county, and it's at the North Rock Creek school gym. However, he said, the shelter is only available to the public when NRC isn't in school.

"This is to make sure they have the appropriate room in the shelter for their students and teachers when school is in session," Larman said.

For more questions, call Pottawatomie County Emergency Management at 405-878-2332.