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Storm Spotter Classes Stress Awareness In Wake Of Joplin Tornado

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WICHITA, Kan. — Bone-chilling screams split the air.

Terrified voices shout "Jesus!" and "I love you!" to seek divine protection or share one final message. The haunting audio of people taking last-moment shelter from tornadoes that devastated Joplin and parts of the Deep South last spring opens the storm-spotter training presentation given this spring by the Wichita, Kan., branch of the National Weather Service.

The sounds transport the audience back to the deadliest year for tornadoes in decades, shattering the illusion that the era of high death tolls from tornadoes had passed. Last year saw 260 tornadoes strike the Deep South on April 27 — the most tornadoes ever recorded in a 24-hour period. Those tornadoes combined killed 320 people. On May 22, an EF5 tornado with wind speeds in excess of 200 mph demolished much of south Joplin, killing 158 people — the deadliest single tornado since 1947.

Every person heard on the audio opening the presentation had sought some form of shelter from the tornadoes that struck, said Chance Hayes, warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service's Wichita branch. Each of them managed to survive, Hayes said, but "some of them were in places they should not have been in," such as big-box stores or mobile homes. "If they're waiting for the sirens to sound, they have waited too long. They need to be prepared beforehand."

Hayes was part of the weather service team that audited the watches and warnings issued from the Birmingham, Ala., branch to see what worked and what didn't. "In Alabama, those folks had a week's worth of notification that the storms were going to occur," Hayes said. "If they had no clue it was going to be a bad day, they were in a hole. They should have known that." Joplin was a different story, he said.

There was only a slight risk for severe weather issued that day by the Storm Prediction Center, but conditions rapidly became much more favorable for severe weather to occur as the day unfolded.

Even then, interviews conducted after the tornado hit showed residents had anywhere from two to nine alerts or "risk signals" that severe weather was imminent before they took shelter, Hayes said. Risk signals could be anything from looking outside and seeing threatening clouds to an alert put out by weather radio or shared by a television meteorologist. "The sirens were the first risk signal for most folks in Joplin," Hayes said. "What they didn't realize, however, was how serious it was. "They had no clue."

Hayes said he hopes residents will soon learn to take appropriate shelter after just two or three risk signals, such as a siren sounding and then a check of television or radio to confirm the immediacy of the threat. In response to what happened last year, local weather officials are stressing awareness, escape routes and safety zones in this year's storm-spotter safety classes. They know storm chasers and spotters aren't the only people who come to the classes. Many are residents simply wanting to learn more about the weather.

If phone calls are any indication, crowds for this year's classes will be larger than any in years, Jim Schmidt, Butler County Emergency Management director, said. The classes for the Wichita area and in southeast Kansas began last week and continue through early April. It's easier than ever for people to stay aware of dangerous weather approaching, Hayes said. With weather radios, television stations, radio stations providing live coverage, social media and other sources — including the telephone and your own eyes — there's no reason for people to be surprised by threatening storms.

The key is being alert and knowing where to go for shelter before the storm hits. Weather officials are stressing a simple message for motorists driving into ugly looking storms: Don't. If a storm has a blue-green tint, it's likely loaded with heavy rain and hail. If the storm stretches to the horizon and has clouds that bend like a bow at the front and look like a shelf, strong winds are approaching. Dark blue patches in storms signify particularly heavy rain, which can be dangerous to drive in. In such instances, Hayes said, it's better to drive away from the storm or seek shelter in a building until the storm passes.

People who will be driving at night should check for watches or warnings before they leave, as well as for radar covering their intended paths to see if they'll run into severe weather. They can also monitor radar on their smartphones.

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2012/02/24/storm-spotters-shift-focus-awareness-response/

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this was possibly at the beginning of the presentation. These people barely survived the EF5 on May 22

then see the aftermath..they survived pinned under the only part of the building that was left

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Yes, that's something that should be really important for people who live in the mid-west, education on how to be aware of potential dangerous tornado-warned storms and what to do if there's no alternative than to ride them out. Could save many lives if everyone is made to learn.

In earthquake prone areas, such as Japan, I'm sure from an early age people are made aware of what to do when indoors during a quake, likewise educating people on what to do during a severe tornado warned storm should be made compulsory.

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This is one Incredible Video from an Approaching Truck Driver heading SW Along I-44.

Watch from 3:30 as the tornado hits from right to left

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Watch the CCTV footage at 2.00 in:

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Some amazing videos of that sad Sunday Afternoon.

Hoping to visit and see how they are re building in about 10 weeks when we go back in May like we did with Greensburg in 2007. It is amazing just how quickly these people get back on their feet after one of these events, most of the debris is bulldozed away and a Memorial Park is built on top of the rubble where people can go to pay their respects, there is one in Greensburg and also in Moore (Ok)

We stayed in Joplin 3 times during the 2011 Tornado Season (All b4 the 22nd May) and all of these videos bring back the places we passed and the roads we trod.

Lets hope no biggies hit big cities in 2012!

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We stayed in Joplin 3 times during the 2011 Tornado Season (All b4 the 22nd May) and all of these videos bring back the places we passed and the roads we trod.

We sat in a bar that was opposite the one mall that was decimated and bought a "Kindle" at a store that is probably no longer there, weird feeling.

Wonder if I can re-sell it as a special edition?

Moving on, it is tragic when something like that happens, in fact the revisit we did previously really does bring it home just how much it wrecks people's lives.

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re: truck driver video, if you flick from the start of the video to about 2 mins along, you get the transition from bright daylight to darkness

The music being played, started to fade, when he hit the rain, then the music disappears altogether

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I don't normally chime in here because I get such a laugh out of the "nebraska" thing. I wanted to tell Nick F that you can't grow up in the midwest without knowledge of dangerous weather from extreme cold and blizzards to tornadoes. I've lived here all of my life and have never been in knocking on wood.....a tornado. I've been close twice in 50 yrs. I turned 50 this year. ugh. Think to yourself, about being warned all of your life for something that's Never happened no matter how nasty a thunderstorm has looked to you. If you ask anyone from Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas etc., most haven't seen a tornado before EVER. You chaser that come over the pond have seen more than I have! It's why we don't run home to the basement. Thunderstorms, and TW are very typical. If anything changes it should be how constant warnings are. It should look so dangerous that we are in danger of imminent death. Just an Opinion of course.

Karen

Nebraska

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Very True Karen

The amount of people we come across in Kansas and Oklahoma that have never seen a Tornado is surprising to say the least.

Will pop in for that Cuppa one day when we are in the Omaha area

Paul S

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Very True Karen

The amount of people we come across in Kansas and Oklahoma that have never seen a Tornado is surprising to say the least.

Will pop in for that Cuppa one day when we are in the Omaha area

Paul S

Paul S going to Nebraska !!!

I will keep my mouth shut.

I love Nebraska saw one of my best in Brady May 2000

Tom

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I've chased once in Nebraska in 5 years. For one of the more frequent tornado hotspots, looking at it statistically, I've never had any real need to go to Nebraska unless heading through to South Dakota. The one chase I've had in Nebraska was immensly fun though - 30th May 2011. Nothing but Gustnadoes but some of them were amazing and there were too many to count with many occasions with multiple gustnadoes in all directions at the same time. Was an awesome moment when the field to the left of me just lifted up to the sky pretty much. Very surreal.

As far as the Joplin storm goes, I'm not sure if you've seen it but there is some pretty scary video out there from a young couple who went out for a drive as the tornado came through up to the point they were hit at the Walmart on Range Line. They were just North of the store and in the Northern quadrant of the tornado so I think the building blocked the worst of the winds and they survived, but the tornado was at EF5 strength at that time so they were incredibly lucky. It's another video which shows it pretty much turning to night and you really can't see anything. They know they were in a bad situation and the poster clearly is upset at his reactions in the video if you read the description but it's interesting how people react under such stressful situation

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Well they do say the highest number of concentrated tornado's in the world is within the UK and Bangladesh as a whole. Contrary to popular belief the US is a big continent, i'm sure many chasers will tell you a entire state alone is about the same size as the UK in comparison. Chasers are lucky if they get to see one tornado per-chase, out of all the cells which develop only a small number actually produce the goods and these will no-doubt be the ones that are followed by any number of chasers/spotters on the ground.

I'd say in relative terms for a individual to see a Tornado on the ground in the states is likely a once in a lifetime event, the odds being higher once you factor in population centers and the likelyhood of a Greensburg/Joplin F5 moving through one of these.

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