Prepare for severe weather by being in the know

Published 9:23 am Saturday, February 14, 2015

Severe weather can strike at any time, and according to local emergency officials, the best defense is to plan ahead.

Sunday kicks off Tennessee Severe Weather Awareness week, which is being conducted by the National Weather Service in an attempt to call attention to the peak of severe weather that occurs in the late winter and spring seasons in Tennessee.

The Carter County Emergency Management Agency is working to help increase awareness of the threat posed by severe weather in Carter County.

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“Thunderstorms and lighting are the biggest severe weather threat we face consistently here in Carter County,” Carter County EMA Director Gary Smith said. “April, May and June are the months where severe weather is most likely in our area.”

Historically, Carter County has also dealt with tornadoes as well as frequent Spring time floods, Smith said. “That is an ever present risk,” Smith said of the spring floods.

The EMA office is currently working to clear some debris from water ways in Stoney Creek and along the Watuaga River which could improve water flow and decrease the potential for flooding, Smith said. “We are going to try to prevent flooding before it happens,” he said.

As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, Smith and EMA Training Director Billy Harrell, have been working with local schools, nursing homes and Sycamore Shoals Hospital to help them be better prepared in the event of severe weather.

“These agencies are going to be exercising their emergency plans,” Smith said. “Many of them will be doing tornado drills. We are actually going to go up to Roan Mountain to Roan Highlands Nursing Home and watch them go through their drill.”

But schools and medical facilities are not the only ones who need to be prepared, residents should also have a plan in place for what to do in the event of severe weather, Smith said.

“We hope residents will use this time to put together their emergency kits and make their emergency plans,” Smith said.

Emergency kits should include food and water for everyone, a tooth brush, a non-electric can opener, flashlight, battery-powered radio, personal hygiene items, cell phone with charger, first aid kit and spare batteries for the flashlight and radio, Smith said, adding the kit should also include any needed medications.

Families should have emergency plans in ready for places where your family spends time:  work, school, daycare, commuting and outdoor events. The plan should include where to meet, where to take shelter and who family members should check in with, if you are separated from family members during a severe weather emergency.

Emergency plans should also include provisions for pets, Smith said.

“People often stay in dangerous situations because they won’t leave their pets,” he said. “Prior planning will help ensure everyone has safe options.”

Pet owners should plan in advance where their pets can be kenneled or make arrangements with friends or family to care for the pet in the event of an emergency.

If severe weather is forecast, Smith said it is important to stay well-informed, either by watching the news, listening to the radio or checking the internet.