Make plans before the storm arrives

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The threat of severe weather typically does not bother me, but last Friday was a different story.

After finalizing last Saturday’s Alabaster Reporter print edition late Friday afternoon, everyone here at our Columbiana office quickly left town in an attempt to reach our homes before the impending severe weather struck.

When I reached my Alabaster residence, the worst of the weather was bearing down on the city. The meteorologists on TV suggested everyone in Alabaster go to a safe place in their homes, and I didn’t think twice about it.

Because tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are almost a weekly occurrence in our region during this time of year, it’s extremely important for all of us to have a severe weather plan in place before the storm gets here.

When I reached my home, the winds were howling and nearly quarter-size hail was pounding the area. I later learned a weak tornado had just damaged several homes and snapped dozens of trees in half less than a mile away.

It turns out the tornado was in the National Weather Service’s weakest category, but it still damaged several homes and could have easily caused some severe injuries.

The tornado could have also easily been much stronger, like the day’s previous twister in Tuscaloosa.

If the tornado was still on the ground when I reached my residence, I would have only had a few minutes to enact my emergency plan and get to the safest place in my home.

We have all heard it time and time again, but I encourage everyone in our city to establish a severe weather plan now, before the storm gets here.

Especially in the South, many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy rains, which makes them extremely difficult to spot until they are nearly on top of you.

As a news reporter, I have seen firsthand the effects of a relatively weak tornado, and it is amazing how much damage those storms can cause in a short time.

A few years ago, I arrived at a school minutes after it was struck by an EF-2 tornado, and was amazed to see school buses thrown hundreds of yards, a brick section of the school destroyed and surrounding houses leveled.

Had the kids inside not instinctively enacted their severe weather plan, it could have been a very tragic day, but nobody was even injured.

Like that day, I was relieved last Friday to learn nobody was injured in the Alabaster storm. If you haven’t already, please make an emergency plan to ensure the outcome is the same next time.